States and Localities Halt Reopenings as COVID-19 Cases Surge

New York City reversed course Wednesday and decided not to let its restaurants resume indoor service next week as originally planned. Miami Beach said that it would reinstate a nightly curfew beginning Thursday at 12:30 a.m., extending until 5 a.m., to try to curb the spread. And California shut down bars and halted indoor dining at restaurants in 19 counties that are home to more than 70 percent of the state’s population.

Source: NY Times | Published on July 2, 2020

shot of store closed sign

Hopes that a spring that was largely lost to the virus would give way to a far freer summer are beginning to wane in many parts of the country. Many states and localities are pausing and even reversing their plans to ease restrictions as the United States records more new cases each day than ever, new outbreaks are disrupting large states in the South and West, and areas that had made progress against the virus show worrying signs of resurgence.

Several Republican-led states that moved quickly to reopen this spring at the urging of President Trump have seen new cases explode, and are now reimposing some restrictions.

Arizona, which Mr. Trump visited in May and praised its reopening plans, is now seeing record numbers of new cases, and Gov. Doug Ducey decided this week to close its water parks amid the July heat and to order bars, gyms and movie theaters in the state to close for 30 days. On Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence visited the state to discuss the crisis as the state reported more than 4,700 cases, just under its single-day record set a day earlier.

Mr. Pence told Mr. Ducey that the federal government would help the state with a request for 500 additional public health personnel by mobilizing doctors, nurses and technical personnel, and urged Arizonans to wear a mask “when indicated by state and local authorities or when social distancing is not possible.”

Mr. Ducey told Arizonans: “You are safer at home. We want to slow the spread of this virus and protect the most vulnerable. If we commit to that and we do it with increased intensity over the next several weeks, we will be in a different position.”

Texas, seeing more young people fall ill as they report record numbers of new cases, ordered its bars closed last week, and Florida banned drinking indoors in bars. Jackson Memorial, Miami’s biggest public hospital, announced that beginning on Monday, it would stop elective surgeries except for those deemed urgent, in order to cope with its Covid-19 caseload, which has doubled over the past two weeks.

“If the trends continue the way we are, we will be inundated,” Carlos Migoya, the hospital’s president and chief executive, told the Miami-Dade County Commission.

California, which was the first state to shut down and which took some of the most aggressive actions to contain the virus, has seen cases explode in recent days after it eased restrictions, leading the governor to move Wednesday to close bars and halt indoor dining in much of the state. “The bottom line is the spread of this virus continues at a rate that is particularly concerning,” he said as he announced the new restrictions Wednesday.

Douglas County, Kansas, which has been grappling with an outbreak, announced that it would close bars and nightclubs for two weeks beginning Friday.

More than 2,000 new cases were identified in Louisiana on Wednesday, the most in a single day since early April, when there was a major outbreak in the New Orleans area. “The situation isn’t as rosy as we’d like it to be,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said Wednesday, as he announced plans to step up enforcement of existing restrictions and urged the public not to patronize businesses that are not following the state’s rules. “We don’t want to close more business and so forth if we can avoid it,” he said.

Gov. Gavin Newsom of California announced that he was closing down bars and indoor dining in 19 counties in California, pulling back reopening for more than 70 percent of the population in the state. He also ordered closed indoor operations in wineries and tasting rooms, zoos, museums and card rooms. The closures, he said, would remain in place for at least three weeks.

More than 37,000 new cases have been announced over the last week in California, more cases than Colorado has identified over the course of the entire pandemic. More than 6,000 deaths have been reported over the course of the pandemic statewide, including about 370 in the past week

In Los Angeles County, the public health department announced Monday the closure of all “public beaches, piers, public beach parking lots, beach bike paths that traverse that sanded portion of the beach, and beach access points.” The county has been averaging more than 2,100 new cases per day over the last week. More than 100,000 people have been infected in that county, up from about 56,000 at the start of June.

The mayor of the city of Los Angeles urged people to keep their distance in public, noting that the health department estimates that one out of 140 residents in the county is currently infectious with the virus. Beaches will also be closed in Ventura County, northwest of Los Angeles.

Mr. Newsom also said parking lots at beaches across the state would be closed for the Fourth of July weekend. He implored the public to avoid gatherings with people not part of their immediate households during the holiday weekend.

“Patriotism in a Covid-19 environment can be expressed a little bit differently,” he said.

Noting a surge in infections and deaths, Mr. Newsom also announced the establishment of teams that will work with local authorities to compel compliance of all public health orders.

Apple said Wednesday it would close 30 more of its stores in seven states, including California, Georgia and Nevada, adding to the 16 stores already closed around the country, where Apple has 271 stores total.

President Trump said Wednesday that he believed the virus was “going to sort of just disappear,” even as cases are rapidly rising nationwide — and added that he was “all for masks,” even though he has rarely worn one himself, mocked people who do, and has questioned the benefits and even the political meaning of face coverings.

“I think we’re going to be very good with the coronavirus. I think that at some point, that’s going to sort of just disappear, I hope,” Mr. Trump said in an interview on Wednesday with the Fox Business Network.

It is a claim he has made before. On Feb. 27, when there were still few known cases in the United States, he said at a White House meeting: “It’s going to disappear. One day — it’s like a miracle — it will disappear.” There are now more than 2.6 million known cases in the nation, and there have been more than 127,000 deaths.

On Wednesday Mr. Trump said, “I think we’re going to have a vaccine very soon, too.”

Mr. Trump has made mistakenly hopeful predictions about the virus’s demise since the first confirmed cases appeared in March in the United States. He has also repeatedly suggested that a vaccine might be imminent, even though top health officials say that one will almost certainly not be widely available to the public before 2021.

As even senior Republican members of Congress and Republican governors in states with rising caseloads issue firmer calls for Americans to wear masks, Mr. Trump spoke less skeptically about the precaution than he has in the past. Last month, he told The Wall Street Journal that some Americans wear masks as a sign of political opposition to him, and said that such coverings could make people more likely to touch their faces and become infected — a risk that health experts say is outweighed by the benefits of covering the mouth and nose.

Asked whether Americans should be required to wear masks, Mr. Trump said: “Well, I don’t know if you need mandatory because you have many places in the country where people stay very long distance. You talk about social distancing. But I’m all for masks. I think masks are good. I would wear one if I were in a group of people and I was close.”

Mr. Trump said that he had worn a mask, but that it was usually not necessary because he and anyone allowed near him were regularly tested. “But if I were in a tight situation with people, I would absolutely,” he said.

Mr. Trump added that he “sort of liked” the way he looked in a mask.

“It was a dark black mask,” he said, “and I thought it looked OK. I looked like the Lone Ranger.”