Strict coronavirus measures could come back if US cases increase 'dramatically,' CDC warns

SERGIO FLORES/AFP via Getty ImagesA woman gets her toenails painted at a nail salon amid the coronavirus pandemic in Austin, Texas on May 8, 2020 following a slow reopening of the Texas economy.

Strict social distancing measures and store closures could come back if coronavirus cases in the US increase “dramatically,” the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention warned on Friday.

The abatement measures were largely imposed in March as the pandemic upended daily life for most Americans and cases rose uncontrollably in places like New York City. However, many states have started lifting restrictions in recent weeks to combat “pandemic fatigue.”

“Right now, communities are experiencing different levels of transmission occurring, as they gradually ease up onto the community mitigation efforts and gradually reopen,” CDC deputy director for infectious diseases Jay Butler said during a press briefing Friday.

Some states that have lifted some restrictions are seeing a rise in overall cases and case rates. Utah will pause all reopening plans until June 26 as it grapples with a spike in cases, Gov. Gary Herbert told Reuters Friday. Oregon, another emerging hot spot of new cases, announced Thursday it will impose a week-long pause on further reopening.

“If cases begin to go up again, particularly if they go up dramatically, it’s important to recognise that more mitigation efforts such as what were implemented back in March may be needed again,” Butler said Friday.

Butler said that decisions about reimplementing such restrictions will have to be made at the state and local levels given the discrepancies in case totals nationally. The US has roughly 20,000 per day, according to Johns Hopkins data, and at least 23 states have reported a 7-day average increase in total cases,CNBC reported.

Texas is one of a handful of states that have chosen to continue reopening even as overall case totals continue to climb, Gov. Greg Abbott said Friday. The state recorded its third day in a row of record high hospitalizations, with more than 2,100 people hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Friday, according to a Washington Post report. Intensive care units in Houston are reportedly at 88 per cent capacity.

“For every person in a hospital bed, there are 10 open, available hospital beds available for them,” Abbott said in an interview with KYTX television Friday. “So there’s plenty of hospital capacity to be able to deal with COVID-19.”

Texas was among the first states to lift restrictions by letting its statewide stay-at-home order expire on April 30. Part of the reasoning, Abbott said, was to help offset economic losses as unemployment continued to tick upward while the order was enforced. However, many public health officials are worried that states that reopen prematurely could extend the first wave of infections or contribute to a larger second wave down the road.

“When you start seeing more hospitalizations, that’s a sure-fire sign that you’re in a situation where you’re going in the wrong direction,” White House infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN.

COVID-19 has sickened more than 2 million Americans and killed at least 113,820 since the first confirmed U.S. case just over four months ago, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Given new data, the CDC updated its national and state-by-state forecasts for the number of people expected to die of COVID-19 in the coming month – it now expects between 124,000 and 140,000 total COVID-19 deaths in the US by July 4.

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