At the height of the US COVID-19 outbreak in March and April, more than 310 million people were staying at home and sheltering in place. We’re now well past the six-month point of the coronavirus outbreak and every state across the US is experiencing different case rates. As such, governors are rolling out complex and constantly evolving reopening plans depending on their own state’s current situation.
With 6.61 million confirmed cases and 196,000 deaths to date, health officials continue to advise against the dangers of loosening restrictions too soon. Despite these worrying warnings, many states have gone ahead with getting back to normal. In this article, we’ll outline how some of the hardest-hit US states are reopening in the midst of COVID-19.
Are New Cases of COVID-19 Increasing?
Yes, many states are seeing an increase in cases. In the northeast, Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire are seeing a week-on-week increase in cases. On the other side of the country, Alaska is also seeing a small increase in cases, from 530 to 550 per week in the first half of September.
Heading down to the Midwest, Missouri, North Dakota, Wisconsin, and Michigan are all seeing cases increase, and in the south, Texas, South Carolina, and Virginia are also reporting a rise of positive diagnoses. Puerto Rico also continues to suffer the effects of the pandemic, reporting over 2,000 cases per week and a steady incline over the past fortnight.
In some instances, these increases in cases are significant and worrying. Massachusetts, for example, saw 2,289 cases for the seven days ending September 14, compared to zero new cases the week before. Utah has also seen a large leap, from 2,926 weekly cases to 3,405 in the same period. Meanwhile, Nebraska added 1,000 cases to its weekly total, and Oklahoma jumped from 5,487 to 6,003 weekly cases.
Are Restrictions Across the US Being Lifted?
Again, yes. Many states are loosening restrictions and some areas have lifted them completely.
Alaska fully reopened way back in May but data shows that there has been a small reduction in citizens leaving their home in the past couple of weeks, which is potentially due to the small increase in weekly cases. Wisconsin is also ‘business as usual’ and K-12 schools have reopened despite a whopping 8,196 new cases being reported last week. Missouri is reporting a similar story of being back to normal despite almost 10,000 new cases per week.
Some states have put a halt on their reopening plans as the situation continues to develop, including Idaho, Oregon, Connecticut, and Delaware. In some cases, the decision to pause reopening or to slow the process comes despite cases shrinking. Louisiana, for example, saw weekly cases drop from 4,984 to 4,770 but Governor John Bel Edwards is has moved cautiously into phase three restrictions until October 9.
Other hard-hit areas are retightening restrictions in the wake of the surge of new cases. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf ended stay-at-home orders back in May but has since reduced the limit on the indoor capacity for bars and restaurants from 50% to 25%, and West Virginia’s cases continue to fall amidst a statewide mask requirement. Over in Hawaii, the lifting of entry rules has been postponed until October 1 at the earliest and the 14-day quarantine for people entering the state is likely to be updated.
What Are the Dangers of Reopening Too Soon?
As President Trump continues to push for the country to open, public health officials continue to warn of the dangers of reopening too soon. The John Hopkins Center for Health Security laid out the criteria for states to reopen, including a 14-day decline in cases, the ability to contact trace and conduct rapid testing, and a health system that can safely care for patients while protecting staff.
However, not all of the re-opening states are able to meet those criteria at the time of writing, and experts are warning that premature opening could lead to additional deaths and further lockdown orders. While the debate of whether or not states should open, we should all continue to take proper precautions by wearing masks and social distancing.
Dr. Anthony Fauci warned of the dangers of reopening too soon way back in May. Listen to his concerns here: