Record High Virus Caseloads In States That Reopened Quickly

COVID, coronavirus
Photo credit: The National Guard

Since the beginning of June, 11 states that opted to reopen their economies early, against expert advice, have reported record high numbers of confirmed coronavirus cases.

On Monday, the Washington Postreported that Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah had all recently experienced their highest seven-day average numbers of new cases.

On June 1, by which time all of those states had reopened their economies, none of them met all five federal criteria for doing so, according to an analysis by ProPublica.

The Post reported that three additional states — California, Oregon, and Tennessee — also saw record high case numbers, but those states had not reopened businesses statewide.

The number of cases spiked so high in Arizona that Dr. Cara Christ, director of the state's Department of Health Services, urged hospitals to "fully activate" emergency plans on Saturday. A day later, Banner Health, Arizona's largest health system, announced it had reached capacity for ECMO machines, devices that help severely ill people breathe.

Some health experts speculated that Gov. Doug Ducey's decision to end stay-at-home orders on May 15 may have helped spread the coronavirus, the Arizona Republic reported on Monday. On June 1, Arizona had 20,123 confirmed coronavirus cases, and at least 917 people had died. On Tuesday, the state had more than 27,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, and at least 1,052 people had died, according to the New York Times.

Last week, Florida saw a string of five consecutive days on which the number of new cases topped 1,000, and health officials are worried that the number could continue to rise.

"I don't think the public believes that they need to do anything anymore and I'm afraid that that's the wrong choice," Dr. Todd Husty, a Seminole County health official, told NBC affiliate WESH on Tuesday.

On June 1, Florida had 56,830 confirmed coronavirus cases and at least 2,460 deaths. By Tuesday, it had nearly 65,000 confirmed cases, according to the Times, and at least 2,711 people had died.

In addition to a new high number of cases, Texas saw a new high number of patients — nearly 2,000 — admitted to hospitals with the coronavirus on Monday, NPR reported. The new numbers were announced on the same day Gov. Greg Abbott announced restaurants, bars, and other businesses in the state could increase capacity to 50%. Many businesses in the state reopened on May 1.

On May 31, Texas had 64,729 confirmed coronavirus cases, and at least 1,675 people had died. On Tuesday, it had more than 77,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, and at least 1,856 people had died, according to the Times.

Many states rushed to let businesses reopen in May as layoff and unemployment numbers rose and Donald Trump encouraged the states to get back to normal.

"Exciting to see our Country starting to open up again!" Trump tweeted on May 5.

As some states followed the advice of experts and exercised more caution in reopening, Trump made his opinion clear.

"REOPEN OUR COUNTRY!" Trump tweeted on May 18.

On May 12, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, had cautioned states against reopening too quickly in testimony before the U.S. Senate.

Fauci warned that "the consequences could be really serious if cities, states, or what have you jump over those various checkpoints and prematurely open up," predicting that the nation could "start to see little spikes that will turn into outbreaks."

On the night before his testimony, Fauci emailed a New York Times reporter, saying he feared reopening economies too early may "not only result in needless suffering and death, but would actually set us back on our quest to return to normal."

Despite cautions from experts and spikes in cases in many states, some governors are moving ahead and reopening still more businesses in states.

"We need to reopen," South Carolina's Republican Gov. Henry McMaster told business leaders on Friday. "We need to be sure to let people know that the virus is still here, but you can't restrict business," he added.

Across the country, nearly two million people have confirmed cases of coronavirus, and at least 110,966 people have died, according to the Times.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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