Cases surge, and states go into lockdown
The fall coronavirus surge in the U.S. is at a dangerous inflection point, with cases spiking across a wide swath of the country.
“What separates this moment is both the breadth of the struggle right now around the country, as well as the suddenness with which case numbers are going up,” said our colleague Mitch Smith, who tracks the coronavirus for The Times.
Last Wednesday, the U.S. topped 100,000 daily cases for the first time. Eight days later, that number was up to more than 163,000. Thirty-seven states set weekly case records in the last few days, and 32 states — from Alaska to New Hampshire — hit that mark again yesterday.
“If you look at the bar charts of cases in different states, a lot of them right now look like straight upward lines,” Mitch said. “And we don’t know where that goes.”
Mitch told us he was most fearful for the Midwest, from Nebraska north to Canada and east to Chicago. The near future looks incredibly dark for cities like Chicago, Milwaukee, Omaha, Des Moines and Minneapolis, where hospital beds are filling up and cases continue to rise.
As far as bright spots, there really aren’t any, Mitch said. The only positive development, if you could call it that, is that populous states like Florida, California and New York are not deteriorating as rapidly as other places — although the situation in those states is also getting worse.
In his first public address since losing his re-election bid, President Trump made no acknowledgment of the incredible surge in coronavirus cases gripping the nation. Because of the vacuum of leadership at the federal level, local elected officials across the country are begging residents to change their behavior, instituting fresh restrictions and warning of more changes on the horizon.
Gov. Kate Brown placed Oregon in a partial lockdown for two weeks, shuttering gyms and restaurant dining and capping social gatherings at six people. In New Mexico, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham issued a “stay at home” order, asking people to shelter in place except for essential trips, beginning Monday and lasting two weeks.
The governors of California and Washington urged their residents today to avoid all nonessential interstate travel, while the mayor of New York City warned that public schools could close as early as Monday.
Elsewhere in the country, as case numbers reach terrifying heights, states, counties and cities are considering economically devastating lockdowns to prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed.
The health care system in particular — as Ed Wong of the Atlantic reported today — is under intense strain.
“The country, for many months, has seen consistent transmission, consistent infection, consistent suffering, and consistent death,” Mitch said. “But what we haven’t seen, in a widespread way, is not being able to fully help people. And given what we’re hearing from doctors and governors, I fear that’s where we could be heading.”
How rules are changing in your state
As cases have exploded in the U.S., governors have undertaken a flurry of actions to try to slow the spread of the virus. Just this week, Utah and Ohio, both states led by Republican governors, have mandated masks statewide. The governor of Iowa, Kim Reynolds, has long resisted a mask mandate, but this week she ordered that masks be worn at large gatherings.
The New York Times is tracking coronavirus restrictions on the state level, including which businesses are open or closed — and whether officials require masks or recommend or order staying at home. Here are the latest rule changes in your state.
Giving thanks, safely
Health officials are dreading Thanksgiving this year, as the surging virus threatens to become even worse because of interstate travel and large family gatherings.
The Times has assembled guidance on how to navigate this year’s holiday season if you plan to travel, from the types of coronavirus tests available for travelers to how to choose the safest seat on a plane. If you’re visiting relatives, you should expect to go into quarantine, with strict statewide requirements. (As a reminder, experts generally suggest two weeks for a safe quarantine. So for Thanksgiving, you should have started yesterday.)
For college students, who may not have the option to stay on campus, it’s crucial to isolate themselves even if they test negative for the virus before traveling. “Their arrival on Wednesday with plans to see grandma on Thursday could pose a huge risk,” David Rubin, a pediatrician and public health expert at the University of Pennsylvania, told our colleagues.
The actual Thanksgiving meal should look significantly different this year, experts advised, with lots of fresh air (through open windows or by hosting the meal outside), a small guest list and as short a celebration as possible. The Times’s Tara Parker-Pope writes that all guests should wear masks whenever they’re not eating and should all use separate utensils.
You might be weighing whether to skip the family gathering altogether, and how to break that news to a disappointed relative. That conversation should happen as soon as possible, experts told the Times’s Christina Caron. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, told Tara that his three adult daughters had decided to skip the holidays this year to avoid putting him and his wife at risk. “You don’t want to be the Grinch that stole Thanksgiving,” he said. “But this may not be the time to have a big family gathering.”
In Illinois, where more than 75,000 cases have emerged in the past week, Gov. J.B. Pritzker suggested that he could soon impose a stay-at-home order, and he scolded local officials for not enforcing mask rules and restrictions on businesses.
Sweden, where a second wave is beginning take shape, registered 4,658 cases yesterday, just under the daily record it set last week, Reuters reports.
In South Korea, which reported 191 cases, its biggest daily jump in 70 days, the government began fining people who don’t wear masks in public, The Associated Press reports.
Puerto Rico will activate the National Guard to help enforce a curfew aimed at curbing the virus, The A.P. reports.
What else we’re following
What you’re doing
Well, what a fabulous 14 days here in Melbourne! Zero new Covid-19 cases and zero deaths. We are all close to tears with joy. After a horrendous error with quarantine issues for residents returning from other countries infested with the virus a few months ago, which caused an enormous outbreak of Covid-19, we are now in a wonderful position. It took 115 days of lockdown, mandatory mask wearing (still imposed for the foreseeable future) and social distancing. The figurative steel band around Melbourne has now been lifted, and we can all dance in the sunshine around the state.
— Deborah McMillan, Melbourne, Australia
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