Governors, mainly Republicans, from some of the states experiencing a rise in novel coronavirus cases following their decision to reopen earlier than other U.S. regions, assert that they can handle the spike and refuse to reimpose lockdown measures.
Most of the United States shut down to hinder the spread of the virus and improve their health systems’ capacity to deal with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
“I don’t know that anyone has the appetite for massive shutdowns again,” Lisa Piercey, the health secretary of Tennessee, recently said. Tennessee has seen an increase in cases and hospitalization over the past two weeks.
Any additional restrictions at this point would likely have “a more laser focus,” she added.
“Americans are on the move,” Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) added Wednesday. “They can’t be tied down, and they can’t be restrained. They don’t want the government telling them what to do.”
On Wednesday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) acknowledged that the state has a contingency plan in place in case reopening needs to be scaled back. He said the record rise in new cases and hospitalizations was not a surprise.
“This was to be expected because the cases we are seeing are in the aftermath of the Memorial Day weekend,” he told CBS Austin. “Some are from the early part of when the [George Floyd] protests started over ten days ago. So we were anticipating a slight increase.”
Some health officials have warned that the protests in the wake of the May 25 death of Floyd while in police custody will likely intensify the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, which has disproportionally impacted minority populations.
Governors argue that the lockdowns allowed them to better equip for a potential wave of new cases.
Politico reported on Wednesday:
State officials hesitant to pause gradually reawakening economies contend they are better equipped to identify and stamp out outbreaks than when Covid-19 [coronavirus disease] emerged just a few months ago. They point out they’ve been stocking up on protective gear for health care workers, expanding the capacity to test for and track the virus, and monitoring outbreaks in meatpacking plants, nursing homes, prisons and other facilities that have been hot spots. They also bluntly acknowledge that the public has quarantine fatigue.
Not all states that opened early are seeing an increase in cases. Georgia has not experienced a significant spike so far despite being one of the first states to reopen.
Health experts predicted that reopening would trigger an increase in the number of cases as more people venture out and gather in stores and restaurants.
Moreover, public health officials and leaders warned that the number of cases would also increase as improved testing capacity detects more cases.
On Thursday, the Associated Press highlighted five states — Arizona, Alabama, Arkansas, Texas, and North Carolina — experiencing an “alarming rise” in cases as governors ease lockdown measures, adding:
There is no single reason for the surges. In some cases, more testing has revealed more cases. In others, local outbreaks are big enough to push statewide tallies higher. But experts think at least some are due to lifting stay-at-home orders, school and business closures, and other restrictions put in place during the spring to stem the virus’s spread. The virus is also gradually fanning out.
Gov. Greg Abbott (R) from Texas, where the number of cases went up by one-third over the last two weeks, has decided to move ahead with plans to allow nearly all non-essential businesses to keep reopening, Politico reported on Wednesday, adding:
Arkansas Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who insists recent surges in infections and hospitalizations aren’t tied to his lifting restrictions, on Wednesday announced the state’s reopening will move forward as planned next week. In North Carolina, which is reporting its highest-ever levels of new infections and hospitalizations, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper said reimposing restrictions would be a last resort. Just one state, Utah, has paused the next phase in its reopening plan amid a two-week spike in new cases.
“We want to avoid going backwards if we possibly can,” Gov. Cooper declared.
Despite the rise in cases, in states like Texas, one of the largest and most populous in the country, COVID-19 cases have not overwhelmed the hospital system.
The vast majority of COVID patients are recovering at home, data compiled by the Texas Tribune indicated, noting that the hospitalization rate of people infected with coronavirus stood at about 8.5 percent as of Wednesday.
Heath analysts consider hospitalizations to be one of the most important metrics for gauging the severity of the ongoing outbreak.
As of Thursday, Texas had over 13,000 regular hospital beds and over 1,400 intensive care unit (ICU) beds available, state data showed.
Despite Gov. Abbott’s plans to move forward with reopening plans, Democrat-run Harris County is planning to extend its stay-at-home order that expired Wednesday, citing an increase in new cases and hospitalizations.