Former coronavirus hot spots reconsider reopening as cases surge across Sunbelt

By | June 30, 2020

The governors of New Jersey and New York are rethinking their reopening plans amid alarming spikes in new cases and hospitalizations across the South.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday that the planned end of the ban on indoor restaurant dining, initially set for Thursday, is canceled. He cited surges in several other states, “driven by, in part, the return of indoor dining.”

“We’ve always said that we would not hesitate to hit pause if needed to safeguard public health,” Murphy tweeted. “This is one of those times.”

New Jersey reported as many as 3,000 new coronavirus cases each day in April, but the number of new cases has been on the decline through May and June. Murphy said Monday that 156 new cases had been reported, bringing the state’s cumulative total to 171,272.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo also said Monday that he is reconsidering whether to allow New York City to resume indoor dining, which is currently scheduled for July 6. Outdoor dining in New York City was permitted to resume June 22. Cuomo described indoor dining as a “real problem” and said he is concerned about a lack of social distancing and mask-wearing in the city as well as in states that reopening much earlier than New York.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also cited worries about allowing restaurants to resume indoor dining as part of the city’s phase three reopening plans. He said in his press briefing that he spoke with Cuomo’s office over the weekend and would update the public on the city’s plans in the coming days.

“We’re at a watershed moment for the city of New York. We have to get it right. We’re going to make adjustments all the time, and we’ll be open to you about when we need to make adjustments,” de Blasio said Monday.

“But we’re also going to be very open about the progress and what we need to do. When we see a problem, like concerns about indoor dining, we have to address it,” he added.

Arizona reported over 600 new cases and no new deaths Monday, but the number of cases is likely much higher than reported as the health department has not been able to update totals.

Arizona’s seven-day rolling average for new cases is 12% higher than it was a week ago, according to data collected by the Washington Post.

Gov. Doug Ducey ordered bars, gyms, and theaters to shut down Monday night, saying that he hoped to have them reopened within 30 days. “With this targeted approach, we know that we can pump the brakes,” he said in an afternoon press conference.

Florida reported 5,276 new coronavirus cases and 28 deaths Monday, bringing the total number of cases and deaths in the state during the coronavirus pandemic to over 156,792 and 3,546, respectively.

Although the new daily case number was lower than the day before, as a rolling seven-day average, it was a record high at 6,589, according to Washington Post data.

The Department of Health and Human Services has secured more than 500,000 doses of remdesivir, the first drug shown to be effective in treating coronavirus patients in clinical trials. HHS will be in charge of allocating doses of the drug through September.

Pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences plans to introduce remdesivir to the market as early as July. Gilead announced pricing plans Monday, which include charging lower rates to the Department of Veterans Affairs but higher rates for private insurance companies.

A Gilead spokesperson said Monday that “the vast majority of patients are expected to receive a five-day treatment course using six vials of remdesivir, which equates to $ 2,340 per patient.”

Jacksonville, the largest city in Florida and host of the upcoming Republican National Convention, made mask-wearing mandatory Monday. Duval County, where Jacksonville is located, now has at least 5,830 confirmed COVID-19 infections and at least 64 deaths.

Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said Monday that the surging number of coronavirus cases could result in nearly half the country infected by the end of the year, “and that’s if we just stay at our current rate.”

“To have the level of infection that they’re diagnosing now [in southern states] and the hospitalizations that they’re starting to see, the community spread is pretty pervasive,” Gottlieb told CNBC.

Gottlieb added that the cohort primarily affected by the latest surge in cases, younger people, will change, and the virus will soon infect more elderly people, driving up the death toll.

“We’re not seeing the number of deaths that we saw during the first wave of infection … but that won’t stay that way,” he said. “Eventually, it will start to seep into older people, more vulnerable people, and you’ll start to see the total number of deaths go up … the total number of deaths will go back up, and we’ll probably get above 1,000 deaths a day on average.”

Healthcare