Re-Closings Follow Re-Openings as COVID-19 Cases Surge
Many healthcare officials saw it coming. They predicted that reopening the country would result in a surge of new COVID-19 cases.
And that's exactly what we've seen. Especially in states such as Arizona, California, Florida and Texas. So much for hot weather killing the virus.
By the time you read this, there will be more than 3 million confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. That's about 25 percent of the world's cases. Despite having less than 5 percent of the world's population.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the actual number of cases might be 10 times higher in some areas.
But what's the alternative to reopening? The economy took a big hit with closures. And unemployment numbers skyrocketed. Getting back to business is the only way to keep companies afloat and Americans employed.
Arizona Opens 'Way Too Early'
The happy medium – if there is such a thing during a pandemic – is reopening slowly and carefully.
Here's what Harris County, Texas government head Lina Hidalgo said. "If we had stayed shut down for longer and opened more slowly, we would probably be in a more sustainable place in our economy."
Phoenix, Arizona Mayor Kate Gallego said her state opened "way too early." Miami, Florida Mayor Francis Suarez said this. "There's no doubt that when we reopened, people started socializing as if the virus didn't exist."
But even some states that tried opening slowly are now backtracking. A surge of new cases has convinced them to cut back on business hours or services.
32 States See Infections Rise
In 32 states, infection rates were higher last week than the previous week. Including Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee. Plus Ohio, Washington and Wisconsin. Some states are breaking new case records almost daily.
Only four states have seen recent decreases in cases. They are Connecticut, Kentucky, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
Dr. Anthony Fauci is director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. And a White House coronavirus task force member.
He was asked recently what a second wave of the coronavirus might look like. He responded that the better question is how are we going to deal with this first wave.
Health Officials Urge Compliance
"We are still knee-deep in the first wave of this," Fauci said. "I would say, this (COVID-19 resurgence) would not be considered a wave.
"It was a surge, or a resurgence of infections superimposed upon a baseline... that really never got down to where we wanted to go."
He added that public health efforts and economic openings are not "opposing forces." He said, "We should use the public health effort as a vehicle and a pathway to get to safe reopening."
Fauci and other health officials have urged the public to maintain social distancing. And exercise other safety precautions.
'We Are in Free Fall'
But crowded beaches over the July Fourth weekend is an indication many people are not taking those warnings seriously.
The recent surge is leading to a shortage of hospital beds in a number of states.
Austin, Texas Mayor Steve Adler said the city's hospitals could be overrun before the end of July if the trajectory doesn't change. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said his city was facing shortages of hospital staff. And ICU beds.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky is chief of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital. She said, "We are in free fall. People are either naïve to the influence of their actions or they're simply resigned to ignore it."
Do the Right Things
Most healthcare officials say America can get through this. But only if Americans do the right things.
That includes wearing facemasks in public and practicing social distancing. As well as avoiding crowded indoor spaces. And engaging in frequent hand washing.
"We just need all of the people in America to... do the right thing." So says Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health.
"All of those simple and straightforward things that I know you're tired of. But the virus is still out there… All of us (need) to keep this from getting any worse."
Test Results Taking Longer
Another negative effect of the resurgence is the testing turnaround time.
Previously, one could expect a COVID-19 test result in two to four days.
With more people now being tested, it's often a week or more. Those additional days "in limbo" give people more time to infect others.
People should quarantine themselves between exposure and a negative test result. Especially because the percentage of positive tests is rising.
But in most cases, that's not happening. Many people assume their test result will be negative. So they go about their business.
Schools Will Look Different
A problem we'll hear more about in the coming weeks is schools reopening. An emergency order in Florida requires all brick and mortar schools to reopen full time in August.
The order followed a tweet from President Donald Trump saying, "Schools must open in the fall!"
Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said this. "There is a need to open schools fully to ensure the quality and continuity of the educational process."
The CDC recommends staggered scheduling at schools. Plus modified seating layouts and the closing of common spaces.
I want to ask everyone reading this to please do whatever you can to stay safe. We'll get through this, but it's going to take a lot of effort.
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