COVID-19 Surge Leads to More Lockdowns and Restrictions
Coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to increase dramatically in the U.S.
Prior to November 4, the highest daily number of new cases was under 100,000. But from November 4 through this writing, there have been at least 100,000 new cases every day. Including more than 280,000 on December 11.
As a result, local and state officials are taking significant measures to stem the tide. Among them are business lockdowns, stay-at-home orders and facemask requirements.
There are still only a limited number of total lockdowns happening. Including one affecting more than 15 million people in Southern California. But many businesses are dealing with capacity restrictions and reduced hours.
Re-openings Help Economy, Hurt Hospitals
Closings and partial closings are occurring where previous closings happened last spring.
Re-openings in the summer were a boost to the economy. But that economy is now being threatened again due to the pandemic.
Some argue that federal policies are needed to halt the COVID-19 spread. Others prefer to keep decisions at the local and state levels.
We don't have room here for a state-by-state update on closings and restrictions. So I'll limit this to a few of the more populous states.
Restrictions Tightened in 40 States
First though, we should note this. As of earlier this month, three states had issued stay-at-home orders and/or curfews. They are California, Ohio and New Mexico.
In seven states, businesses were mostly closed. Or open with restrictions. They are Washington, Oregon and New Mexico. As well as Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois and Kentucky.
Facemasks became mandatory in all but 14 states. They are Idaho, Wyoming, Arizona, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma. Plus Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina and Florida.
In 40 states, restrictions have been tightened or reinforced recently. In only 10 states were restrictions lifted or kept the same. They are Texas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Missouri and South Dakota. As well as Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Arizona and Alaska.
Curfews and Facemasks
In California, Governor Gavin Newsome set a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew for 90 percent of the state's population. Bars are closed for indoor service statewide. He also issued a stay-at-home order for Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside counties.
Businesses including movie theaters, museums and libraries are mostly open in Texas. Governor Greg Abbott closed some businesses that had reopened.
In Florida, businesses are mostly open and facemasks are not required inside many of them. Governor Ron DeSantis limited the rights of local governments to enforce tighter restrictions.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo limited gatherings at private residences to 10 people. He also required bars, restaurants and gyms to close by 10 p.m.
Closings and Shelter Orders
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf extended a facemask requirement. It now includes indoor gatherings involving people from more than one household. He also lowered the sizes of indoor and outdoor events to between 5-15 percent capacity.
In Illinois, Governor J.B. Pritzker closed casinos. He also issued a mandatory curfew of 11 p.m. for bars and restaurants. Other mitigation efforts vary from region to region.
Public gatherings are limited to 10 people in Ohio. Governor Mike DeWine issued a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew. He also hinted that restaurant and bar closings are next.
There is no mask mandate statewide in Georgia. But Governor Brian Kemp allowed cities including Atlanta to implement them. He also extended the state's shelter-in-place order for medically vulnerable populations.
Was England's Lockdown Effective?
There's no question lockdowns reduce the number of new COVID-19 cases. There's also no doubt lockdowns hurt the economy. And cause people financial stress. Officials are trying to reach a balance.
England was seeing a 30 percent reduction in new cases. That's following the country's second national lockdown.
Their four-week lockdown ended in early December. It included the closing of non-essential businesses. And an order to individuals not to mix with other households. Schools remained open.
Since then, England returned to a tiered system. Tighter restrictions are put in place for areas where infection rates are higher. Time will tell if England's near-future infection rate is affected by the lockdown ending.
Rhode Island Pushes Pause Button
"Pause" is another word we're hearing lately. In connection with lockdowns and restrictions.
As in many states, new cases have surged recently in Rhode Island. Governor Gina Raimondo ordered a two-week pause. It ended a few days ago.
"Things aren't getting any better," she said prior to the pause. "I have tried to avoid any sort of a lockdown or a stay-at-home order."
But she warned that if the state's residents didn't comply, a long-term lockdown might be issued.
Trying to Buy Time
The "pause" temporarily closed or limited a large section of Rhode Island's economy. It also scaled back in-person high school learning. And moved colleges and universities to distance learning.
Raimondo reduced the state's social gathering limit. It went from 10 to members of individual households only. She also extended restaurant capacity restrictions. Travelers to other states were required to quarantine at home for 14 days upon returning.
Among businesses forced to shut down were casinos and indoor sports facilities. As well as bars and bar areas, and offices (as much as possible).
Raimondo said her goals were to keep the state's hospitals from being overwhelmed. And to buy time before an effective vaccine is available. She is now quarantining after the state’s health department director tested positive.
Officials everywhere are struggling to slow the COVID-19 spread without damaging the economy. And residents' livelihood. So far, the challenge is proving greater than efforts to meet it.