If reopening the economy would lead to more coronavirus spreading, states would probably begin to feel the effects now, with rising numbers of cases, higher rates of positive tests, and increasingly tense hospitals. Unfortunately, there is a lot of evidence that is exactly what is happening.
A few things to look out for when following Covid-19 after reopening: First, states certainly expected some extra spread once people went back to restaurants and resumed other normal activities. It is a matter of trade-off: how much new coronavirus spread is “worth” to alleviate the cost of the economic shutdown?
The most important thing is whether a state health system has enough hospital capacity to treat all coronavirus patients – and other patients. The worst-case scenario is the exponential spread that threatens to overwhelm hospitals in the state and requires the reintroduction of strict social distance measures.
One more consideration: raw case numbers alone may not tell much about a state’s Covid-19 situation. We expect the number of cases to increase along with testing. But if the number of positive tests from a state increases or if the number of hospital admissions increases, it is better evidence of a wider spread.
And looking ahead, the continued easing of social distancing could exacerbate these trends.
“The thing about all these places is not that these increases are certainly related to Memorial Day weekend reopening or partying, although that may be, but that, despite the increasing number of cases, the continued relaxation will only provide more opportunities for community transmission, “said William Hanage, a Harvard epidemiologist.” The virus is getting highways to transmit. “
With that in mind, I asked public health experts across the country about the corona virus hotspots they are looking at and concerned about. Here is the list. (Eric Topol, a top scientist, came up with a very similar list on Twitter.) All data was retrieved on Wednesday June 10.
Test positivity rate: 12.7 percent (up from 7.7 percent two weeks ago)
Arizona has quickly become the most viewed state in the country. The state’s largest health system has warned that the intensive care unit is filling up. The state health official asked hospitals to activate their emergency plans to increase their bed capacity.
Public health experts in the state have blamed the spread of social distance, such as the Republic of Arizona reported. In mid-May, Arizona began reopening gyms, restaurants, and other businesses. The state does not require all individuals to wear masks in public, but workers who communicate with the public are expected to wear a mask.
Governor Doug Ducey’s administration points to greater testing capacity to explain the state’s figures. But while the number of daily tests has risen from 4,200 to 7,900 in the past two weeks, the rate at which these tests return positively is also increasing. Experts say that such a trend suggests that the virus is actually spreading, not just that more tests are finding more cases.
Former Arizona health director warned this week that the state may be forced to give a new home development assignment. Because state hospitals also report relatively low bed availability, Arizona is at the forefront of fears of reopening and redistribution.
Relaxed / finished home order: May 22
Hospital admissions on May 22: 568
Hospital admissions on June 9: 774
Test positivity rate: 7.2 percent (up from 5.2 percent two weeks ago)
North Carolina echoes many of the same trends as Arizona, albeit to a lesser degree. Hospital admissions have increased and the positive test rate is increasing. According to the Covid Exit Strategy dashboard, the availability of the hospital system is considered low, but it is not dangerous yet.
The Raleigh News & Observer reported the state saw a record number of hospital admissions on Tuesday. Democratic governor Roy Cooper has sought to restore some social distance in problematic places, such as ordering a circuit that had been the site of an informal, maskless protest to close again.
At the same time, certain activities, such as high school sports, have resumed in recent days. The state also currently does not require masks to be worn in public places. The trend lines are being followed closely for the time being; the state’s highest health official recently said to be concerned about the specific benchmarks being monitored to determine whether schools will be reopened.
Relaxed / finished home order: May 4
Hospitalization on June 9: 541 (up from 482 on June 7)
Test positivity rate: 9.6 percent (up from 3.9 percent two weeks ago)
South Carolina saw a dramatic one-day peak in hospital admissions in Covid-19, putting it on the national radar. Bed capacity is also starting to decline, to around 30 percent statewide, and some areas are seeing even less availability, according to the Washington Post.
The condition is an anomaly in testing: the daily average in tests has actually increased from 5,400 to 4,200 in the past two weeks. But the positive test rate has more than doubled over the same period, suggesting a wider spread as South Carolina was at the top to reopen some companies from April 20.
Testing again doesn’t seem enough to explain the trends, and health officials are clearly concerned about people not taking the right precautions. There is no state mandate to wear masks, although people are urged to wear one.
“Other factors, including meetings at which people do not apply security measures, may also play a role,” state officials said this week, according to WCSC. “There is still a significant risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus in a public environment in any community.”
Relaxed social distance policy: May 1
Hospital admissions on May 4: 102
Test positivity rate: 9.4 percent (up from 4.8 percent two weeks ago)
Utah has not seen a dramatic increase in hospital admissions so far, but the positive test rate is rising to about heights. Tests come back positive at twice the frequency they were two weeks ago, although the state slightly increased the number of daily tests over the same period.
An outbreak in a meat processing factory is at least partly responsible for the peak in cases. Some cities have started closing their public facilities in response to the apparent wave. Utah never instituted a home order, and companies were allowed to start reopening on May 1.
State officials recognize that the broadcast is worryingly persistent and that masks have been worn in public places since April. There does not yet seem to be a serious consideration of a renewed social distance policy.
Relaxed social distance policy: May 4
Hospital admissions on May 4: 91
Hospitalization on June 8: 171
Test positivity rate: 8.1 percent (up from 6.6 percent two weeks ago)
In Arkansas, the number of hospital admissions in Covid-19 has almost doubled in the past month, although hospitals in the state do not yet appear to be at risk of exceeding capacity. But what matters is the combination of increased hospital admissions and a higher positive test rate, while the test capacity is almost twice as great as two weeks ago.
This is one of the states that has never had a home order all over the state, and some business activity resumed in early May. The general public does not have to wear a mask, but employees in public companies do.
Governor Asa Hutchinson and state health officials insisted they do not believe that the increase in the number of cases has to do with reopening, rather clusters in nursing homes and correctional facilities. In fact, the governor is expected to announce the next phase of reopening on Wednesday.
Relaxed social distance policy: May 1
Hospital admissions on May 1: 1778
Hospitalization on June 8: 1,935
Test positivity rate: 6.6 percent (up from 4.9 percent two weeks ago)
Texas experiences the same trends – hospital admissions up, positive test rates up – only on a much larger scale because it is a much larger state. The reopening of businesses and restaurants started in early May. The Houston Chronicle reported hospital admissions have risen 36 percent since Memorial Day weekend. For now, state hospitals have just over 30 percent of their general and ICU beds available.
Governor Greg Abbott has questioned whether reopening whether the protests against police brutality are to blame for the worrying trendlines, but public health experts point to relaxing social distance and the holidays, according to the Chronicle.
However, the reopening will continue unabated for the time being. Restaurants will be allowed to fill their dining rooms up to 75 percent from this week, and theme parks will be allowed to allow 50 percent of their usual capacity next week.
Relaxed / ended home order: May 18
Test positivity rate: 4.1 percent (up from 3.2 percent two weeks ago)
It’s not clear if Florida is currently spiking in hospital admissions because the state only reports cumulative totals, not current capacity. But the positive test rate has grown in the past two weeks, although test capacity is stable, indicating an increase in the spread.
Florida reopened a little later than other states on this list, so it’s hard to be sure why the spread seems to be picking up. Governor Ron DeSantis orphan to groups of agricultural workers who live close by as a possible explanation. He also blamed the people for not wearing masks, as advised by the state – but not required, except for workers.
(Here, as elsewhere, officials also quote more tests to explain the trends. But again, that doesn’t explain the surge in tests that return as positive.)
Relaxed social distance policy: May 1
Daily average of new hospital admissions from May 20: 18
Daily average of new hospital admissions from 9 June: 26
Test positivity rate: 5.4 percent (up from 5 percent two weeks ago)
Tennessee does not publish its current current hospital admissions, but it does report new hospital admissions every day, and they have increased since late May. The positive test rate has also increased slightly. Restaurants have been open since late April and the order at home was reversed on May 1.
“COVID is still with us. It’s not going on summer vacation and our opening clearly opened the door for more transmission, ‘said William Schaffner, a professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University, the Tennessean.
Nashville, in particular, is slowing down the next phase of reopening – allowing restaurants, shops and small music venues to return to full swing – due to the increase in new cases there, the newspaper said.
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