Apr 17, 2020 - Health

Why reopening any state now is a gamble

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Reopening any state in the U.S. right now — even the ones with low caseloads — would be a big risk.

The big picture: Places with low caseloads can easily become hotspots if they don't plan correctly. And no state has a plan to address the increase in coronavirus cases that looser social distancing will likely bring.

Driving the news: Some states "will be able to go literally tomorrow," President Trump said yesterday, as he released the administration’s blueprint for beginning to reopen the economy.

  • But at the same time, several states, including New York, have extended their shelter-in-place orders into May.

"I have not yet seen any place amass the plans or the resources to do that," said Jennifer Nuzzo, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

Between the lines: Places that don't have many confirmed cases now are still susceptible to new waves of infection.

  • Although rural and suburban areas haven't yet been hit as hard as cities, "there's nothing that makes those places immune from coronavirus," said Harvard's Ashish Jha. "It will just take much longer, because the spread is going to be slow."

Testing is still a big part of the problem.

  • The number of confirmed cases almost certainly underrepresents the real number of cases. And to safely manage future outbreaks without extreme social distancing, we'll need to be able to find and isolate people who are sick but don't know it yet.
  • Most of the country isn't prepared for that level of testing.

The bottom line: "It's not so much about the case numbers," Nuzzo said. "It's also about whether we have the strategies or the resources in place to deal with the cases that will emerge after the measures are put in place."

Go deeper

Coronavirus cases spike in Texas, Oregon and Arizona

Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Map: Andrew Witherspoon, Sara Wise, Naema Ahmed/Axios

Texas, Arizona and Oregon saw significant spikes last week in new coronavirus infections, while cases also continued to climb in a handful of states where steady increases have become the norm.

Why it matters: Nationwide, new cases have plateaued over the past week. To get through this crisis and safely continue getting back out into the world, we need them to go down — a lot.

Updated 11 hours ago - Health

U.S. coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. This graphic includes "probable deaths" that New York City began reporting on April 14.

The Department of Health and Human Services moved on Thursday to require that an individual's race, ethnicity, age and sex be submitted to the agency with novel coronavirus test results.

Why it matters: Some cities and states have reported the virus is killing black people at disproportionately high rates. There are gaps in the national picture of how many people of color are affected, since the data has not been a requirement for states to collect or disclose.

Jun 3, 2020 - Health

DeSantis says Florida bars and clubs can reopen this week

Outdoor restaurant in Fort Lauderdale on May 18. Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday that bars and clubs will be allowed to reopen on Friday, as the state continues to scale down restrictions it put in place because of the coronavirus, WCTV reports.

Why it matters: DeSantis ordered bars and clubs to close in mid-March as one of the first actions the state took to stem the spread of the coronavirus.