As the United States records more daily infections than ever before, it is confronting a perilous new stage in the outbreak, with the resurgence largely concentrated in the South and the West. Here’s a look at what’s happening in a few of the country’s hot spots.
After a severe uptick in infections and hospitalizations, Gov. Greg Abbott paused the state’s reopening plans today and ordered hospitals in four counties to suspend elective surgeries. Businesses that had reopened last month — including restaurants, gyms, retailers and bars — are still allowed to operate. Although critics have blamed the reopening for contributing to the expanding pandemic, Mr. Abbott has said repeatedly that rolling it back would be a last resort. The state has recorded more than 130,000 cases and nearly 3,000 deaths; see a map of cases in the state here.
Despite Florida’s rising case count, which tops the previous record nearly every day, Gov. Ron DeSantis has given no indication that the state will roll back its economic opening. He attributed the rising infections to younger people who have started to socialize in bars and homes and pleaded with them to be responsible. He also urged residents to avoid closed spaces with poor ventilation, crowds and close contact with others. There have been at least 114,010 cases in Florida, and at least 3,326 people have died; see a map of cases in the state here.
After it reopened, Arizona quickly curbed measures meant to prevent the spread of the virus, and Gov. Doug Ducey did not make it a requirement for residents to wear masks in public. Last week, as infections surged, he changed course slightly, allowing local governments to set their own mask requirements. Drive-up sites have been overwhelmed by people seeking coronavirus tests, and hospitals are running out of intensive-care beds — about 88 percent are already in use. The state has had 60,207 cases and at least 1,467 deaths; see a map of cases in the state here.
Gov. Gavin Newsom threatened yesterday to withhold state funding for counties that refuse to enforce public health orders. The governor said the virus was spreading at private gatherings in homes, and outbreaks at some prisons are raising concerns. Mr. Newsom introduced a forecasting model for the state today that showed hospitalizations tripling over the next month if trends hold. The state has had at least 195,800 cases and 5,728 deaths; see a map of cases in the state here.
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Cases grow among young people
In a shift from the early days of the pandemic, when the virus ripped through nursing homes and older populations, younger people are now making up a growing percentage of new cases in cities and states where the virus is surging.
In Arizona, around half of all coronavirus cases affect people ages 20 to 44. In Florida, the median age of people testing positive has dropped to 35, from 65 in March. In one Texas county, people under 40 make up a staggering 75 percent of new cases.
The reason for the changing demographics may be human nature. Younger people are more social, experts say, and as bars, beaches and restaurants reopen, they’re more likely to leave their homes to meet and mingle. That’s raising concerns that asymptomatic young people may be spreading the disease among themselves and to more vulnerable populations.
Still, the experts are divided on the reason for the increase. Some believe it could be a function of more widespread testing, while others argue that hospitalizations rates are also going up, indicating that transmission rates are higher.
Some optimism for gym rats
Plenty of cooped-up people are itching to get back to their gyms, but is doing so safe? New research funded by Norway — most likely the first randomized trial to test whether people who work out at gyms are at greater risk of the virus — offers some hope.
The two-week study began in May with 3,764 members from five gyms in Oslo. Half were allowed to return to their gyms with instructions to wash their hands, maintain three to six feet of distance depending on the activity and stay out of showers and saunas (they did not have to wear masks). The other half could not go back.
The study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed or published, ended with only one case of the virus, in a person who had not used the gym before being tested. Based on the results, Norway, which has largely controlled the virus, reopened gyms this week with the safety measures used during the trial. Some experts believe the findings could be widely applicable, with one important caveat: The places where gyms reopen should have few infections.
Bars are another story. The often small, indoor spaces are a perfect storm of risk factors: tables and stools sitting side by side, poor ventilation, loud music that forces patrons to yell and move closer, and lowered inhibitions. Experts are advising owners to move their operations outdoors and keep the music low.
How the U.S. missed the virus
The Times’s graphics team analyzed travel patterns, hidden infections and genetic data to show how America’s coronavirus pandemic spun out of control. At every crucial moment, they found, officials were weeks or months behind the reality of the outbreak.
New York City is on track to enter Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan on July 6, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced, which would allow indoor dining and personal-care services to resume.
The Kentucky Derby, planned for Sept. 5, will allow spectators to watch the race in person, track officials announced today.
After several recent local outbreaks, Germany’s R0 — a measure of how many people an infected person spreads the virus to, on average — has dropped to 0.72. That’s a sign that infections could start decreasing again.
What else we’re following
What you’re doing
I’m a bit of a nomad and a photography lover so I recently began sending photos I took with disposable cameras over the last two years of travel to loved ones. On the back, I briefly write out memories of what I was doing at the time and how I wish I could take them there. My grandma is 93 living in isolation in a nursing home and my hope is that sharing these glimpses of the world help bring her comfort.
— Anne McCarthy, San Diego
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