WASHINGTON • The coronavirus pandemic is tearing through the United States heartland, setting records for hospitalisations and forcing businesses to rethink their plans to reopen, as new modelling predicts the virus will kill 180,000 Americans by October.
The spikes in cases will likely trigger closures in some places but not a nationwide shutdown, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said yesterday, as a number of states saw a record rise in daily infections.
“There will be some shutdowns individually… in individual places and certain stores,” he told Fox Business Network.
“We’re going to have hot spots. No question,” he later told reporters at the White House. “We just have to live with that.”
Mr Kudlow also told Fox that he still expected to see a “strong” V-shaped economic recovery, with a 20 per cent growth “snapback” in the third and fourth quarters of this year and a US unemployment rate of 10 per cent by year end.
Overall, the US recorded its second greatest daily increase in Covid-19 cases since early March, with a nationwide surge of nearly 36,000 new cases on Tuesday.
More than half of the 50 states have seen a rise in infections over the past two weeks, with some posting daily records on Wednesday.
California reported a record 7,149 new infections on Wednesday, bringing the total tally to almost 196,000.
Disneyland’s home of Orange County showed the fourth-biggest increase in the state, at 360 cases.
In Orange County, Florida, location of the Walt Disney World Resort, the number of cases has tripled over the past three weeks.
With the all-time high for new infections in the US, Walt Disney has delayed the reopening of its theme parks indefinitely.
In Texas, the authorities recorded their worst day so far, with a jump of over 5,500 new cases on Wednesday to more than 131,000 in total.
THROUGH HELL AND BACK
We have taken our people, the three of us from these three states, through hell and back, and the last thing we need to do right now is subject our folks to another round.
NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR PHIL MURPHY, referring to all three north-eastern governors, all Democrats.
Health officials in Houston said their infrastructure was “overwhelmed”.
The worsening situation prompted some states to take drastic measures like imposing internal quarantines and face mask orders.
The governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut ordered travellers from eight other states to be quarantined for two weeks on arrival.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said the tough, tri-state quarantine mandate was “the smart thing to do”.
“We have taken our people, the three of us from these three states, through hell and back, and the last thing we need to do right now is subject our folks to another round,” Mr Murphy said of the three north-eastern governors, all Democrats.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo warned that failure to quarantine in the state could result in thousand-dollar fines.
Officials in New Jersey and Connecticut, however, said there was no enforcement mechanism at the moment.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said on Wednesday that the state would pause its move into the next phase of reopening by three weeks and make the wearing of masks mandatory in public when social distancing is not possible.
“Our increasing numbers show we need to hit the pause button while we work to stabilise our trends,” Mr Cooper said.
Nevada’s governor also ordered everyone to wear masks in public as some of Las Vegas’ biggest casinos made them a condition of entry. “We are not post-Covid-19,” said Governor Steve Sisolak. “We’re still in the middle of the first wave.”
Mr Sisolak, who is serving his first term, had been under pressure to restart the state’s economy after shutting much of it in March.
The first businesses began reopening last month, with the state’s large and lucrative casino industry following on June 4.
North Carolina and Nevada were among about a dozen states to adopt face-covering rules.
The total number of coronavirus cases in the US is now more than 2.4 million, with over 124,000 fatalities, making it the worst-hit nation in the pandemic.
The country is on track to lose 180,000 lives by the start of October, roughly equivalent to the population of Providence, Rhode Island, according to the University of Washington experts, though they said an embrace of masks would mitigate the damage.
The forecast is predicated on the expectation that the outbreak will pick up in late August and intensify further in September.
If more than 95 per cent of Americans start regularly wearing masks in public, that number would drop to 146,047 deaths.
The Trump administration has largely left policymaking to the states, which have followed strategies ranging from tight lockdowns in the north-east to relative laissez-faire in the south and west.
In California, which was early to enact statewide shelter-in-place rules in March, Governor Gavin Newsom urged residents to recommit to measures to slow the pandemic.
Mr Newsom, who last week issued an order requiring face masks in public, said too many people were letting down their guard.
“We cannot continue to do what we have done over the last number of weeks,” he said on Wednesday.
“Many of us, understandably, developed a little cabin fever. Some, I would argue, have developed a little amnesia.”
REUTERS, BLOOMBERG, NYTIMES