Virginia last Wednesday went into Phase 3 of reopening from the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic shutdowns that kept many people at home and many out of work. Phase 3 relaxed a lot of restrictions and some worry that doing so will bring more infections.
Too many remain unemployed but the stay-at-homers are returning to public places en masse in the Old Dominion and throughout Southwestern Virginia over the last few days with long backup at Floyd’s only stoplight and crowds in stores, and at outdoor music events over the 4th of July weekend.
In Floyd and around the United States, many of those who gathered at holiday events ignored the recommendations of the Center for Disease Control and the director of Infections and Control.
The President of the United States, refusing to wear a mask, ordered “no social distancing” at Mt. Rushmore and said “masks are not necessary” for the 7,500 who gathered for military flyovers, fireworks, and a fiery speech that many thought promoted white supremacy.
The same for a scaled-down celebration of the 4th of July on the National Mall of our nation’s capital city, where the National Park Service said the crowd was much smaller than the year before but still ignored social distancing and masks.
In Floyd County over the 4th of July weekend, we saw musicians playing out in front of the Village Green wearing masks and practice social distancing. At some other events, no masks. While Virginia’s rules require masks at indoor businesses and events, they are only “recommended” outdoors. Health officials say they are needed in any and all public gatherings — inside or out.
Many local officials are now seeing rapid rising rates of infections now wish their governors had listened to the health experts and not the president when they decided to push through early re-openings.
“We’re right back where we were at the peak of the epidemic during the New York outbreak,” former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said on “Face the Nation” on CBS Sunday. “The difference now is that we really had one epicenter of spread when New York was going through its hardship, now we really have four major epicenters of spread: Los Angeles, cities in Texas, cities in Florida, and Arizona. And Florida looks to be in the worst shape.”
“As long as we’re doing as little as possible and hoping for the best, we’re always going to be chasing this thing, we’re always going to be behind, and the virus will always outrun us,” Harris County, Texas, Judge Lina Hidalgo tells the Washington Post. “And so what we need right now is to do what works, which is a stay-home order.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, stripped Hidalgo, who is the ranking official in the county that encompasses Houston, of the authority to put a stay-at-home order when he pushed for an early re-0pening.
Austin mayor Steve Adler shares Hidalgo’s concern.
“If we don’t change this trajectory, then I am within two weeks of having our hospitals overrun,” he said to the Post, adding that intensive care units in the city could be overflowing within 10 days.
In Miami, Mayor Francis X. Suarez said Florida’s governor should have listened to the health experts.
“There’s no doubt that when we reopened, people started socializing as if the virus didn’t exist,” he told ABC News. “It’s extremely worrisome.”
Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego (D) attributed soaring case numbers in Arizona to the state’s decision to resume business as usual before the virus was under control. She noted that young people who ignored health guidelines had probably led the explosion in cases.
Gallego said federal officials had dismissed her requests to conduct community-based testing in the area after people reported waiting in line for six hours at some testing sites. “We were told they’re moving away from that,” she said, “which feels like they are declaring victory while we’re still in crisis mode.”–The Washington Post
In Virginia, some local health experts say privately that Gov. Ralph Northam succumbed to political pressure and ignored their worries and warnings about trying to reopen too quickly.
Other point to a flattening out of deaths, even with the increase in cases. Health experts say the infections of more younger victims who are more resilient contributed to the decline in deaths along with newer medical procedures for treatment that were not used earlier in fighting the infections.
“What we’re able to do is when people do get hospitalized and get into the ICU, we’re able to save more lives with treatments like remdesivir, with steroids now, which has a big impact on mortality, and innovations in care like using blood thinners on patients and not intubating them as aggressively,” Gottlieb told “Face the Nation.”
Even so, 41-year-old Broadway start Nick Cordero died over the weekend from the virus. His wife said he had no underlying conditions but doctors had to amputate a leg when blood clots could not be stopped and his condition continued to decline before he died.
Here in our region, many went to Myrtle Beach, a virus hotspot, came home with the virus. So have others who went out to bars and restaurants.
Florida’s daily virus count topped 10,000 for the third time in the past week and the new infections have pushed the total caseload to more than 200,000, a level matched by New York and California.
“It’s clear that the growth is exponential at this point,” Miami Mayor Francis Suarez (R) said on ABC’s “This Week.” “We’ve been breaking record after record after record.”
Miami’s flashy nightclubs closed in March, but the parties have raged on in the waterfront manse tucked in the lush residential neighborhood of Belle Meade Island. Revelers arrive in sports cars and ride-shares several nights a week, say neighbors who have spied professional bouncers at the door and bought earplugs to try to sleep through the thumping dance beats.
They are the sort of parties — drawing throngs of maskless strangers to rave until sunrise — that local health officials say have been a notable contributing factor to the soaring coronavirus infections in Florida, one of the most troubling infection spots in the country.–The New York Times
Closer to home, West Virginia showed sharp increases over the weekend — 118 on Saturday nad 76 on Sunday — the biggest two-day jump during the pandemic, the Associated Press reports.
North Carolina is one of seven states with record increases and set yet another record on Friday with 2,099 cases, eclipsing a previous record of 1,843 just two days earlier.
“We are seeing significant spread of the virus and it is very concerning,” Dr. Mandy Cohen, DHHS secretary, said in a statement on Friday. “Today we have the highest reported day of new cases and hospitalizations — and that should be a warning to us all as we go into this holiday weekend. We don’t get a holiday from COVID-19. We all need to wear a face covering, avoid crowds and wash our hands often.”
In Virginia, increases are now popping up in the Southwestern portion.
Southwest Virginia was insulated from the worst of what the virus brought to the state. But as more and more establishments reopen and people venture out, often without mandated face coverings, and as restrictions eased still more on Wednesday, the tide turned.
“We are having people coming back from vacation. It’s almost exclusively that,” said Nancy Bell, population health manager for the West Piedmont Health District. Nearly all went to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.–The Roanoke Times
Even in rural Floyd County in Virginia, cases have doubled from 10 to 20 in two weeks after it took three months to reach the first 10. In the second batch of 10, four came in tests at Skyline Nursing Home and two of the other six visited Myrtle Beach.
Yet less than half of the customers we observed in Food Lion Sunday afternoon were wearing masks. At least two were coughing.