Two US states impose restrictions as COVID-19 cases spike
The US states of Oregon and New Mexico have announced strict measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 as the country faces growing outbreaks of the virus.
Officials have ordered most non-essential businesses to close and urged people to limit their social interactions.
On Friday, California became the second state to hit one million Covid cases, after Texas.An average of over 900 people a day are now dying with the disease in the US.
Daily cases have topped 100,000 for the last 11 days and more than 67,000 people are currently in hospital.
The US has seen over 10.7 million cases and 244,000 deaths thus far, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The Trump administration struck an optimistic tone on Friday, saying they hope to have two vaccines and two therapeutic treatments for Covid-19 approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the coming weeks.
Dr Moncef Slaoui, head of the administration’s vaccine initiative, told a news conference that he hoped to have 20 million doses ready to be distributed in December, and then at least 20 million doses each month after that.
Speaking at the same news conference, President Donald Trump said he would not put the US into lockdown. “Lockdowns cost lives and they cost a lot of problems. The cure cannot be…. worse than the problem itself and I’ve said it many times,” he said.
Data shows that the majority of the country has rising community spread of the virus.
In recent weeks, the Midwestern US has been the centre of the outbreaks, with cases rising in states like Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan and Illinois.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown announced a two-week “freeze” limiting restaurants to take-out and shuttering gyms and recreational facilities from 18 November to 2 December.
“I’m not asking you, I am telling you, to stop your social gatherings … and your house parties and to limit your social interactions to six and under, not more than one household,” she said.
Meanwhile, New Mexico Governor Lujan Grisham ordered a two-week shutdown of non-essential businesses such as grocery stores, farms, childcare centres, banks, factories and healthcare facilities.
Meanwhile, California and Texas – which reached the million-case milestone on 10 November – now both have viral caseloads that surpass other countries, including Mexico and Germany.
The surges have prompted local officials to hit pause on reopening efforts in several states, and some are re-imposing stay-at-home directives.
Eleven counties in California were told to reverse some reopening measures.
Southern California is the worst hit part of the state, with substantial outbreaks. In Los Angeles, there are more than 330,000 infections.
San Diego, Sacramento and Los Angeles counties are among the areas now on the lowest tier of California’s reopening plan. Indoor dining and indoor religious services are prohibited.
As the state’s positivity rate – the percentage of positive tests in the population – is now at 3.6%, California Governor Gavin Newsom urged people to wear masks and distance, saying: “Your actions could literally save lives.”
President-elect Joe Biden also again renewed his call for Americans, “regardless of where they live or who they voted for” to “step up and do their part” with social distancing, mask wearing and hygiene.
“I understand it’s not easy. I know people are tired. But this will not go on forever.”
Many of the individuals had reportedly travelled to events around the US for both Mr Trump and Mr Biden.
What’s the situation elsewhere in the US?
CBS News reports 15 states saw the numbers of patients in hospital due to the virus double in the last month. Hospitals have warned that facilities could be overwhelmed if the trends continue.
Colder weather has forced people indoors, and experts say pandemic fatigue is also making Americans less cautious.
- Republican governors in Iowa, Ohio, West Virginia and Utah have issued mask mandates
- Ohio’s governor has also threatened to shut bars and gyms if the outbreak worsens
- In Minnesota, bars and restaurants must shut by 22:00 local time
- Wisconsin and Nevada residents have been asked to stay at home for two weeks to avoid a return to restrictions
- The Democratic governors of California, Oregon and Washington state have issued a travel advisory, discouraging non-essential travel and requesting people to quarantine post-travel
- New York has ordered bars and restaurants that serve alcohol to close by 22:00 local time; gatherings are limited to 10 people; the city could also close schools on Monday
- The city of Chicago has a stay-at-home advisory beginning on Monday, and non-essential businesses must close by 23:00 local time; gatherings are limited to 10 people
- The city of Detroit has moved all students to remote learning due to the virus spikes
- Indiana has halted reopening and limited social gatherings and events
- Maryland has ordered restaurants to reduce indoor capacity to 50%
US infectious disease chief Dr Anthony Fauci told CBS on Friday: “If we do the things that are simple public health measures, that soaring will level and start to come down.
“You add that to the help of a vaccine, we can turn this around. It is not futile.”
Concerns as another holiday approaches
Outbreaks in the spring and summer followed US schools’ spring breaks and the national Labor Day holiday weekend – and now experts are concerned that as Thanksgiving approaches at the end of the month, the spikes will again worsen.
That is the situation playing out across the border in Canada, where people celebrated their Thanksgiving a month ago. The country’s top doctors say that the holiday is partly why cities and provinces are now seeing record-high infections.
Indoor gatherings pose a large risk to spreading the virus, and as the holiday centres around eating together, wearing masks is not feasible.
One analysis from Georgia Institute of Technology researchers found the risk of having a Covid-positive individual at even a 10-person sized gathering could be close to 100% in the worst-hit parts of the US.
Back in October, Dr Fauci cautioned that the “sacred” American tradition of gathering together at Thanksgiving “is a risk”.
“You may have to bite the bullet and sacrifice that social gathering, unless you’re pretty certain that the people that you’re dealing with are not infected,” Dr Fauci told CBS News.