Jun 25, 2020 - Health

America's reopening grinds to a halt

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

America's great economic reopening is hitting a major snag, just like the public health experts warned.

Why it matters: Confirmed case counts are soaring to the point where Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is pausing the state's reopening and canceling elective surgeries to stockpile PPE.

  • The number of Texans hospitalized with COVID-19 has tripled since Memorial Day, the Texas Tribune reports.
  • The state still has plenty of hospital beds, but hospital officials are rushing to add more capacity and shift patients around.

The big picture: Face masks are essential to slowing the coronavirus' spread, but they have become politicized in recent months.

  • Wearing face masks "could result in a large reduction in risk of infection," according to a recent review of 172 studies, Axios Science editor Alison Snyder and Eileen Drage O'Reilly report.
  • But conservatives who prize individual autonomy over social responsibility experience "a massive pushback of psychological resistance" when presented with mask mandates, psychology professor Steven Taylor told Axios Future editor Bryan Walsh.
  • This is partly a failure by public health experts. CDC guidance has flip-flopped on wearing masks during the pandemic, and white lies meant to preserve PPE for health workers has backfired big time.
  • The CDC now thinks the realistic estimate of cases could be as high as 23 million — 10x the current tally — because of asymptomatic carriers.

Between the lines: Unlike the mass confusion of mid-March, Americans now have a reasonable sense of what to do in a pandemic.

  • If you're at risk, stay home.
  • If you're not at risk and won't stay at home, put on a mask and wash your hands, don't socialize indoors and stay 6 feet apart.

The bottom line: This round of outbreaks may be concentrated among young people, but at a certain level of spread, the older folks could get it too.

  • "We have consistently underestimated this virus," Ashish Jha of Harvard reminded the AP.

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