State and local officials are rolling back their reopening plans and announcing plans to keep schools closed in the fall, as a senior World Health Organization (WHO) official on Monday warned that "there will be no return to the 'old normal' for the foreseeable future" given the coronavirus pandemic's continued spread.
US new coronavirus cases near 3.4M, deaths top 135K
Data from the New York Times shows that Puerto Rico; the U.S. Virgin Islands; Washington, D.C.; and 38 states saw their average daily numbers of newly reported coronavirus cases rise over the past 14 days: Alabama, Alaska, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Florida—which is now an epicenter of the global coronavirus pandemic—recently has been reporting more new coronavirus cases in a single day than many countries. As of Monday, Florida officials had reported a total 282,435 total coronavirus cases since the global pandemic first began, which is 12 times higher than the combined number of cases reported cases in Australia and South Korea, CNN reports.
Meanwhile, the Times' data shows that the average daily numbers of newly reported coronavirus cases over the past two weeks remained mostly stable in Guam and 10 states: Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming.
Maine and New Hampshire saw their average daily numbers of newly confirmed cases decrease over the past 14 days, according to the Times' data.
Meanwhile, while growth in America's national coronavirus-related death rate had been declining for several weeks, data suggests that rate is accelerating once again.
According to the Times' data, Puerto Rico and 23 states saw their average daily numbers of newly reported deaths linked to the coronavirus rise over the past 14 days: Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Washington.
Overall, officials as of Tuesday morning had reported a total of 135,402 U.S. deaths linked to the new coronavirus—up from 134,976 deaths reported as of Monday morning.
WHO director warns of 'no return' to normal 'for the foreseeable future'
On Monday, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the global coronavirus pandemic will continue to worsen if countries do not follow safety precautions to contain the pathogen's transmission.
"Let me be blunt, too many countries are headed in the wrong direction, the virus remains public enemy number one," he said. "If basics are not followed, the only way this pandemic is going to go—it is going to get worse and worse and worse."
On Sunday, WHO reported a single-day record of new coronavirus cases reported worldwide, at 230,000. Tedros said about 50% of those new cases were reported by the United States and Brazil, which currently are reporting the highest numbers of coronavirus infections and related deaths when compared with all other countries.
"In several countries across the world, we are now seeing dangerous increases in Covid-19 cases, and hospital wards filling up again. It would appear that many countries are losing gains made as proven measures to reduce risk are not implemented or followed," Tedros said. He added that, if the pandemic continues to follow its current course, "there will be no return to the 'old normal' for the foreseeable future."
States, localities roll back reopening plans
As America's coronavirus epidemic continues to resurge, some state and local officials are rolling back their plans for reopening nonessential businesses and reimplementing measures intended to mitigate the coronavirus' spread.
For example, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Monday announced that, effective immediately, the state was reimplementing mandatory, statewide closures of bars and card rooms, and requiring family entertainment centers, museums, restaurants, wineries, and zoos to suspend their indoor operations. Newsom also announced that fitness centers, places of worship, personal care services, hair salons, barber shops, malls, and offices for noncritical sectors in 30 California counties must suspend their indoor operations.
"We're moving back into a modification mode of our original stay-at-home order, but doing so utilizing what is commonly referred to as a 'dimmer switch,' not an 'on and off switch,'" Newsom said.
Similarly, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) announced that the state is once again prohibiting indoor dining at restaurants and indoor activities at breweries. And in Oregon, Gov. Kate Brown (D) said the state is reimposing bans on indoor gatherings with more than 10 people, though faith-based events, fitness centers, and restaurants are exempt from the ban.
Separately, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner (D) in a tweet posted Monday proposed implementing "at the minimum" a two-week shutdown in the city to help contain the coronavirus' spread. "If we cannot have a shut down, then at least step back to state's Phase 1," he wrote. "This will allow us to reset and reassess."
According to the Times, as of Monday, nine states had rolled back their reopening plans to some degree and 12 had paused their reopening plans. The remaining states already had reopened or had not announced plans to stop moving forward with their reopenings as of Monday, the Times reports.
Officials announce plans to keep schools closed in the fall
Some officials also have announced plans to keep schools closed in the fall.
On Monday, Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) announced they plan to start the upcoming school year in August with only remote instruction.
LAUSD did not indicate when the school district might resume in-person instruction or move to a hybrid remote and in-person instruction model. SDUSD said, by Aug. 10, it will release a public assessment of when it plans to return to in-person instruction.
Separately, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) on Monday released guidelines for reopening schools in the state, which note that the rates of new coronavirus infections in a school's area must consistently decline and remain under 5% before the school can resume in-person instruction. The guidelines also require schools that reopen to screen students', teachers', and other staff's temperatures at the beginning of each school day and implement rigorous cleaning and disinfecting procedures, among other measures. Cuomo said he will announce which regions are prepared to resume in-person instruction next month.
In recent weeks, whether to reopen schools has become a flashpoint of debate in America. According to the latest Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index released this week, a survey of 219 U.S parents conducted from July 10 to July 13 found that 71% said sending their children to school in the fall would represent a large to moderate risk to their children's health and well-being. Cliff Young, president of Ipsos U.S. Public Affairs, said Americans "right now [are] not feeling safe in putting their children back in school."
Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO's health emergencies program, said schools can safely reopen once the coronavirus' spread is contained, but warned that children "will be exposed" and "some will be infected and they will infect others" if schools reopen too quickly. "The fact remains that when community transmission exists and when community transmission is intense, children will be exposed to that virus and children will be part of the transmission cycle" (Owens, "Vitals," Axios, 7/13; Yan/Watts, CNN, 7/13; Nebehay/Koltrowitz, Reuters, 7/13; Guzman, "Changing America," The Hill, 7/13; Treisman, NPR, 7/13; Maxouris, CNN, 7/13; Coleman, The Hill, 7/13; Kamenetz, NPR, 7/13; New York Times, 7/13; New York Times, 7/14).