Coronavirus Rising in Florida, Arizona, California and Texas: What We Know

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.

The Coronavirus Briefing is The Times’s daily newsletter on the pandemic, with insights and guidance from reporters and experts. Sign up here to get the briefing by email.

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.

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.

  • Updated June 24, 2020

    • Is it harder to exercise while wearing a mask?

      A commentary published this month on the website of the British Journal of Sports Medicine points out that covering your face during exercise “comes with issues of potential breathing restriction and discomfort” and requires “balancing benefits versus possible adverse events.” Masks do alter exercise, says Cedric X. Bryant, the president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit organization that funds exercise research and certifies fitness professionals. “In my personal experience,” he says, “heart rates are higher at the same relative intensity when you wear a mask.” Some people also could experience lightheadedness during familiar workouts while masked, says Len Kravitz, a professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico.

    • I’ve heard about a treatment called dexamethasone. Does it work?

      The steroid, dexamethasone, is the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in severely ill patients, according to scientists in Britain. The drug appears to reduce inflammation caused by the immune system, protecting the tissues. In the study, dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of patients on oxygen by one-fifth.

    • What is pandemic paid leave?

      The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the virus. It gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. It gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid leave, and includes people who don’t typically get such benefits, like part-time and gig economy workers. But the measure excludes at least half of private-sector workers, including those at the country’s largest employers, and gives small employers significant leeway to deny leave.

    • Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?

      So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.

    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?

      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

    • How does blood type influence coronavirus?

      A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.

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.

Read the interactive story here.

  • 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.

  • In Paris, the Eiffel Tower partially reopened today, and the Louvre plans to welcome visitors again starting July 6.

  • 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.

Here’s a roundup of restrictions in all 50 states.

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

Let us know how you’re dealing with the outbreak. Send us a response here, and we may feature it in an upcoming newsletter.

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