Coronavirus Live Updates: Some Governors Look to Lift Restrictions, Despite Lags in Testing

Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin, Idaho and other states look to lift orders.

Facing mounting economic damage and with encouragement from President Trump, governors of some states have started to announce plans for businesses to tiptoe back into operation on May 1, even as cases surge in some parts of the country.

Public health experts are warning against premature decisions to force the economy into motion again, and fear that vast stretches of the country still lack crucial supplies and systems — like expanded testing capacity that governors have said they do not have — to counter the risks of reopening.

Just as much of the country entered life under quarantine in a patchwork fashion, it is poised to ease restrictions the same varied way, responding to the local needs to fight the virus.

Beaches in Duval County, Fla., where infections appear to be flattening, will reopen with restrictions at 5 p.m. on Friday. In New York, where Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Thursday that the state’s sweeping shutdown would last until at least May 15, an order requiring people to don facial coverings in public will take effect Friday evening.

In Idaho, Gov. Brad Little has said businesses that were once deemed nonessential, such as craft stores, candle shops or dog groomers, could open to allow for curbside or delivery services until at least the end of the month. He noted that they should prepare to reopen altogether in May with social distancing and sanitation rules in place.

Gov. Gavin Newsom of California has suggested that restaurant patrons would have to submit to having their temperatures taken before being seated once that state begins a gradual reopening.

More than 22 million Americans have lost their jobs in recent weeks — a toll that roughly matches the entire cumulative workforce of 23 states — and many governors, as well as Mr. Trump, fear the mounting economic repercussions of sustained shutdowns.

But tackling the economic catastrophe requires getting a handle on the public health crisis.

Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, told CNN on Thursday night that surveillance to give communities early warning signs of local transmission would need to be enhanced, diagnostic testing capabilities expanded and contact-tracing efforts bolstered.

“Any one piece by itself will not be able to accomplish what we need,” she said.

The ideas and criteria in the guidance are not new; parts of it were embedded in earlier plans by Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former head of the Food and Drug Administration, and Dr. Tom Frieden, former head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But those plans were conservative, saying that states could reopen once they had robust testing capacity, enough equipment to protect health care workers and the means to reach out to anyone who was exposed to the virus to warn them to isolate, a process known as contact tracing.

Reopening before those issues are resolved, though, risks endangering the few places that have managed to dodge the virus, and would be accompanied by significant scientific concerns:

Testing is still spotty. Most of the country is not conducting nearly enough testing to track the virus in a way that would allow Americans to return to work safely. Without widespread testing and surveillance, said Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University in New York, “we won’t be able to quickly identify and isolate cases in which the patients are presymptomatic or asymptomatic, and thus community transmission could be re-established.”

Waiting periods of 14 days are required. States wishing to loosen rules are asked to meet certain criteria every two weeks. But if someone were infected toward the end of the 14th day, it is possible he or she could seed an outbreak as restrictions were lifted.

Shortages of protective equipment persist. Communities in which restrictions are eased will be at greater risk for outbreaks. Mr. Trump has said that the federal government has distributed millions of masks, gloves and gowns to health care workers, but those on the front lines say they are still put in harm’s way because of shortages of personal protective equipment. “People are still dying,” said Zenei Cortez, president of National Nurses United, the country’s largest nurses’ union. “This is no time pat ourselves on the back and say the emergency is over.”

On Jan. 24, the eve of the Chinese New Year, Dr. Jian Zhang, the chief executive of San Francisco’s Chinese Hospital, saw an alarming photograph on WeChat. An old medical school colleague was about to join more than 100 other health care providers being rushed to Wuhan to help manage the outbreak.

Dr. Zhang immediately recognized the threat.

“Twelve hours,” she recalled thinking. “We have direct flights from Wuhan to San Francisco, and it only takes 12 hours.” She knew those who were visiting family in China during the Lunar New Year would soon be back.

A perfect storm seemed to be headed for the 22 square blocks that make up Chinatown, one of the most densely populated neighborhoods in the United States. Many of the neighborhood’s older residents live in cramped single-room-occupancy hotels. Travel between Chinatown and China is constant.

Given the unpredictable pathways of this highly contagious disease, Dr. Zhang and other leaders in Chinatown are well aware that circumstances could change in an instant. But the neighborhood has thus far held off the virus.

Chinese Hospital, an acute care facility in the heart of the neighborhood, admitted its first Covid-19 patient on March 26, three weeks after patients had been hospitalized in other parts of San Francisco. As of mid-April, at least 34 cases of Covid-19 had been detected in 22 S.R.O.s around San Francisco. None of these cases were within the neighborhood, although three were on its border.

Chinese Hospital was at the center of an effort to coordinate barriers for entry of the virus. These involved almost every major institution in Chinatown, including the Chinese-language press and deeply engaged neighborhood institutions, all of whom were imprinted with memories of earlier infectious disease outbreaks. Deep links to front-line health workers in China were invaluable as Chinese Hospital worked to avoid what everyone thought was coming.

“It’s kind of amazing,” said Aaron Peskin, a San Francisco supervisor who represents the neighborhood. “Chinatown, knock on wood, is looking pretty darn good.”

Israel Sauz of Tulsa, Okla., couldn’t wait to see his first child, a baby boy named Josiah. And he couldn’t wait for the world to see him, too. So he got in close and took a picture for Facebook of his son, fast asleep in a green onesie, shortly after the boy came into the world one Sunday last month.

Just 21 days later, on April 5, Mr. Sauz was dead. He was 22.

The cause was complications related to Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, according to family friends and the school district where he attended high school.

Many in Tulsa may not have recognized his name, but they knew the smiling face — he was an assistant night manager at a busy QuikTrip gas station and convenience store about a mile east of downtown Tulsa. He was still a teenager when he first started working for QuikTrip, a popular chain based in Tulsa.

He lived in the Tulsa suburb of Broken Arrow. He and his wife, Krystal, had celebrated their first wedding anniversary two weeks before Josiah was born.

Berna Lee got the call from the nursing home in Queens on April 3: Her mother had a fever, nothing serious. She was assured that there were no cases in the home. Then she started calling workers there.

Here’s a guide for those in need of financial help.

If your income has fallen or been cut off completely, we’re here to help. Here is some basic information you’ll need to get through the current crisis, including guides to government benefits, free services and financial strategies.

For students in the class of 2020, the crisis arrived just as they were receiving college acceptance letters, dreaming about new jobs, gearing up to leave high school — and making plans for prom, which, for most students, has been canceled.

We photographed 10 students from Omaha in the outfits they had planned to wear to the dance. They talked to us about their prom dreams, hopes and disappointments.

The cultural rite of passage, which they’ve largely experienced through movies and television shows, books and Mom’s old photographs, was their chance to feel like adults — or at least like they were on the brink of adulthood — for the first time.

Now, it feels like high school is ending on a whimper.

Reporting was contributed by Alan Blinder, Eileen Sullivan, Mitch Smith, Dionne Searcey, Kate Taylor, Marc Santora, Matt Stevens, John Leland, Amy Julia Harris, Tracey Tully, Michael Cooper, Emily Flitter, Roni Caryn Rabin, Knvul Sheikh, Manny Fernandez, Adeel Hassan, Peter Baker, Alyson Stamos and Meiying Wu.

Source link