PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) – State and local officials in the United States are again overriding social distancing rules after a failed effort over the summer, allowing bars, restaurants and gyms to open. Fans gather without a mask at football matches. President Donald Trump is organizing crowded indoor demonstrations.
While some Americans may see these things as a welcome step towards normalcy, public health experts warn that the United States is bracing for bankruptcy – again.
“People are getting very dismissive about the pandemic,” said Mark Rupp, professor and chief of infectious diseases at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. The governor of Nebraska ended nearly all restrictions in his state on Monday, even with new coronavirus cases on the rise.
“I think it’s preparing us for further broadcast and more people get sick and, unfortunately, more people die,” Rupp said.
The virus is blamed for more than 6.5 million confirmed infections and 195,000 deaths in the United States, by far the highest total for any country, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally.
While the number of cases has dropped from an average high of 67,000 new infections per day at the end of July to around 36,000 now, the numbers remain staggeringly high. The deaths are about 750 per day, down from a peak of over 2,200 in late April.
In the past few days, Mississippi has allowed restaurants to expand their customer capacity to 75%. New Jersey has reopened indoor gyms and restaurants, albeit with limited capacity. The governor of Michigan has allowed the reopening of gyms and the resumption of organized sports. On Thursday, the county commissioners of Pinellas County, Florida will discuss whether to repeal their mask ordinance.
Public health experts have noted that it is safe to resume certain activities in communities where there are low levels of infection.
The nation’s foremost infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci appeared on video at Vermont Governor Phil Scott’s virus briefing on Tuesday and praised the state’s response and its steps to safely reopen. He attributed this to Vermont’s emphasis on wearing masks, avoiding crowds, and taking other simple precautions.
But elsewhere, experts said, the case count is too high to resume high-risk activities, such as going to bars, gyms, theaters and stadiums, participating in sports closely or eating inside a restaurant.
In most communities in Florida, bars were able to reopen to 50% capacity on Monday, while maintaining some precautions. But Florida’s three largest counties – Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach – are keeping their bars closed due to the high number of cases.
Even in places where drinking establishments have been given the OK to reopen, some owners and customers alike are hesitant.
At The Leon Pub, a smoky bar a mile down the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee, the Monday night crowd was sparse, as it had been for much of the long, oppressive summer.
“It was crickets and shrubs,” bartender Lauren Bryant said.
Among the few were Allie Preston and her husband. “We are locked up for a while. It was nice to have normality,” he said.
Florida bars closed on St. Patrick’s Day in March, allowed to reopen in June, then closed again about two weeks later due to the increase in virus cases. The Leon Pub was allowed to reopen in July because it had a restaurant license.
Jim Smith. owner of Poor Paul’s Pourhouse in Tallahassee, he intends to keep his house closed until the outbreak ends.
“I miss going to work every day. I miss seeing the customers and the employees, “he said.” We have to keep this under control. “
It’s not just government officials who are letting go of the restrictions. In Milwaukee, the Roman Catholic archbishop said he will no longer excuse people from worshiping in person unless they are sick or are caring for someone who is sick. Meanwhile, cases in Wisconsin are on the rise.
Some local officials are cracking down as they see cases soar.
In Wichita, Kansas, health officials made a curfew and mask mandatory. In Framingham, Massachusetts, officials said they have begun issuing $ 500 fines to property owners who violate the rules on gatherings and wearing masks.
Public health experts said they fear seeing a pattern: a drop in cases leads officials and regular Americans to reduce measures to stay safe and infections and deaths return.
“Please, you did so well, don’t let your guard down,” Fauci said during a press conference during a video call with the governor of Vermont. “Because if we do that, we will see peaks that will take us back to where we were months ago.”
Calvan reported from Tallahassee, Florida, Ring reported from Stowe, Vermont. Associated Press reporters from across the United States contributed to this report.
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