Alarmed by new COVID-19 outbreaks and predictions that hospitals could soon reach capacity, governors and local authorities in many parts of the country are frantically trying to roll back reopening plans that were put in place just weeks ago and issuing new or more-stringent mandates for wearing masks in public.
According to tracking from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United States has seen 40,000 new positive COVID-19 cases on each of the last four days. Only one other previous day, April 6, saw that many. Many individual states have also set record highs for daily cases over the last week, and rising rates of positive results disprove the administration’s attempts to portray the phenomenon as an artifact of administering more tests.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said that starting Wednesday, masks will be required statewide.
“I do not want to have to close down businesses again like other states are now doing,” said the Democratic governor in a news release. “If you want your local shops and restaurants to stay open, then wear a face covering when out in public.”
Kansas is following suit later this week.
“Starting July 3, I will issue an Executive Order requiring masks be worn in indoor public spaces, and at any outdoor gathering in which social distancing cannot be maintained,” announced Democratic Gov. Laura Kelley. “This step will keep Kansans healthy, and keep Kansas open for business.”
The city of Jacksonville, Fla., also instituted an indoor mask mandate effective at 5 p.m. Monday. The Republican National Convention, at which President Trump will accept his nomination for reelection, is scheduled to be held in the city in late August, after it was moved from North Carolina. Trump has refused to wear a mask in public, but the Republican National Committee said it would honor the mask order if it were still in place at the time of the convention.
On Tuesday morning, “Fox & Friends” host Steve Doocy urged Trump — an avid Fox News viewer — to consider wearing a mask.
“I think that if the president wore one, it would just set a good example. He’d be a good role model. I don’t see any downside to the president wearing a mask in public,” Doocy said.
Last week, Florida banned the sale of alcohol at bars in an effort to reduce crowds, and officials in South Florida announced that they will close the area’s beaches over the Fourth of July weekend. Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner told the South Florida Sun Sentinel it would be “highly irresponsible” to keep them open.
“As we continue to see more COVID-19 positive test results among young adults and rising hospitalizations, I have decided that the only prudent thing to do to tamp down this recent uptick is to crack down on recreational activities that put our overall community at higher risk,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez said in a statement, closing the beaches from July 3 to 7.
States have likewise begun rolling back or delaying planned reopenings. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said his state is suspending indoor restaurant dining, which was set to return on Thursday, indefinitely. New York is reportedly considering a similar delay.
“We have seen spikes in other states driven in part by the return of patrons to indoor dining establishments, where they are seated and without face coverings for significant periods of time,” said Murphy. “We do not wish to see New Jersey experience a similar spike.”
In Arizona, Republican Gov. Doug Ducey announced Tuesday that he was closing the state’s bars, gyms, theaters and water parks and delaying the start of in-person instruction at schools. Ducey faced criticism for reopening the state before reaching the recommended federal thresholds, and it has seen cases explode in recent weeks. The governor has refused to mandate the wearing of masks, instead merely suggesting that citizens don them. He called it “an issue of personal responsibility” and asked Arizonans to “make responsible decisions to protect the most vulnerable in our communities.”
In Los Angeles County, officials warned that hospitals could be overrun as cases continue to spike. Los Angeles was one of seven California counties ordered to close their bars by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sunday.
“This does indicate — definitively — that we have increased community transmission,” said Barbara Ferrer, the director of public health for Los Angeles County. “There’s so much at stake, since these continued increases will result in many more people becoming seriously ill, and many more deaths of COVID-19.”
Republican Gov. Bill Lee extended Tennessee’s state of emergency until at least Aug. 29. Lee is not mandating mask usage but is encouraging it. Last week in Texas, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott announced he was rolling back the state’s reopening amid a surge in cases and banned elective surgeries in more-populous areas to free up more hospital beds.
On Monday, Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the CDC, said the virus was spreading too rapidly and too broadly for the U.S. to bring it under control.
“We’re not in the situation of New Zealand or Singapore or Korea where a new case is rapidly identified and all the contacts are traced and people are isolated who are sick and people who are exposed are quarantined and they can keep things under control,” she said in an interview with the Journal of the American Medical Association’s Dr. Howard Bauchner. “We have way too much virus across the country for that right now, so it’s very discouraging.”
According to tracking from Johns Hopkins University, there have been more than 126,000 deaths and 2.5 million positive cases in the United States. While daily case counts have grown sharply in recent weeks, particularly among younger Americans, deaths have not shown an increase.
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