If you’ve been following US news in the past two weeks, you might think the COVID-19 pandemic is over. Far from it. Almost half of all states are now registering rising infection numbers, and new exit restrictions may be necessary – a scenario the Trump administration has already ruled out.
Coronavirus Impact in the US
The United States has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic. To date, more than 2,082,900 people have been infected with the disease. At at least 115,300 people have succumbed to the virus in the United States.
Of the 50 American states, New York and New Jersey have been impacted the most and account for over half a million of the nation’s infections. In comparison, sparsely populated states in the west of the country, such as Alaska and Montana, reported less than 1,000 infected people.
With restrictions being lifted in many places, infections are increasing again across the nation, and in almost half of the states — in parts dramatically such as in Florida, California and Texas. The other half of the states seem to be continuing to suppress the virus successfully — for now.
The Forgetful News Cycle
COVID-19 and its impact had been the dominant topic since March but has now become something like background noise after the death of George Floyd and the subsequent protests and riots that have engulfed the nation. President Trump even ceased addressing the issue publicly, and his COVID-19 task force meetings have become few and far between.
The latter could change rather swiftly. On Friday, the Department of Health in North Carolina said that 1,768 new infections had been registered, more than ever before in a day since the pandemic began.
In the face of resurgent infections, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has urged everyone to continue to take the situation seriously. The pandemic is not over the CDC’s infectious disease officer Jay Butler explained on Friday. Renewed lockdown restrictions “could become necessary again.” The ultimate decision will be made at the local level, however, and depend on respective infection processes. The CDC is closely monitoring the rise in new infections in numerous states and is “very concerned,” said Butler. He also stated that he understands the urge to return to a normal life, but added that such a transition needs to be conducted “as safe as possible”.
‘A Lot of Work to Do’
Meanwhile, CDC director Robert Redfield called on all Americans to continue to follow distance and hygiene recommendations. While real progress was being made, there was still “a lot of work to do,” he concluded.
According to a poll released by the CDC on Friday, a vast majority of Americans support the gradual easing of restrictions as well as the hygiene recommendations and say they don’t feel safe should all restrictions be lifted immediately.
This sentiment is shared by politician such as New York’s governor Andrew Cuomo. On Friday he said that while New York now has the lowest transmission rate of the virus, thanks to the people’s efforts, one needed to stay “disciplined and smart.”
On the federal level, however, the approach is different. Despite fears of contagion at mass events, Trump had planned to hold a rally on Sunday, June 14, but has now rescheduled it until June 20. How dicey the situation is is seen by the fact that participants who had been planning to attend the Saturday rally were required to sign a waiver.
However, with the infections increasing again, it will be interesting to see what approach the president is willing to take. His administration has already ruled out a second national shutdown. Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin said on Thursday that the government had learned that a shutdown of the economy creates even more damage and that the White House “cannot shut down the economy again.”
And yet, the writing seems to be on the wall. On Thursday morning US stocks tumbled the most in almost six weeks when evidence mounted that the second wave of coronavirus cases was coming, and with the options for the White House to respond at this point becoming increasingly limited, it’s no wonder they did.