Americans face new norms as coronavirus outbreaks show no sign of slowing down
A woman from Seattle says she had the novel coronavirus and is recovering. She describes her experience with the virus during an interview with CNN’s Erin Burnett.
For many Americans, the past 48 hours have felt like uncharted territory.
Travel restrictions into the US are going into effect today. Leaders across the country are banning public gatherings, dozens of school districts and universities hit the pause button on classes, sports leagues suspended their seasons and major entertainment venues — like Broadway and Disney World — announced a halt in activities.
Despite the measures, one top US health official says the number of outbreaks is “definitely going to get worse before it gets better.”
There’s no way around it, Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health told CNN Thursday night. “We will have a lot more cases.”
There are at least 1665 cases across 47 states with 41 deaths: 31 in Washington state, which has been the epicenter of the outbreak with at least 457 positives; four in California; two in Florida; one in Georgia; one in Kansas; one in New Jersey and one in South Dakota.
The number of cases will likely continue jumping as more tests become available and some facilities begin conducting drive-through testing.
In New York, which reported 328 positive cases, the Broadway League said it was suspending all shows through April 12 “in support of the health and well-being of the theatre public, as well as those who work in the theatre industry.”
It was one of many cancellations that left the public stunned.
Here’s who else hit the pause button
The NBA said Wednesday it was suspending the rest of its season after a Utah Jazz player tested positive for the virus. That announcement came shortly after the NCAA announced it was banning public audiences from March Madness games — and then a day later canceled the tournaments altogether.
Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, Major League Soccer and the PGA Tour all suspended their schedules for the next weeks. And NASCAR announced they will hold their events audience-less for the foreseeable future.
The National Rifle Association also said it was canceling its annual meeting set to take place next month in Nashville. In 2018, there were more than 85,000 attendees, according to an NRA spokeswoman at the time.
And The Walt Disney Company announced the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida would be closing through the end of the month.
All that as children across the country are being told to stay home and college students are moving out of their dorms as many universities transition to online courses.
Across many states in the US, the bottom line: stay home. If you have to go out, keep your distance.
Bans on gatherings, schools closed
Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee issued guidance Thursday to shut down all public and private K-12 schools in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties, the state’s most populous areas, for the next six weeks.
“Today’s decision has a full range of implications from learning plans and childcare, to free and reduced-price breakfast and lunch, just to name a few,” Inslee said in a statement. “I anticipate this will cause ripple effects… but we can’t afford not to do it.”
A day earlier, Inslee announced a ban on all events with more than 250 people in the state’s largest three counties. He has also issued guidance for assisting living facilities to limit visitors after at least 10 homes reported cases.
The announcement paralleled the one made by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who directed events with 500 or more people to be canceled or postponed and announced only “medically necessary visits” will be allowed in nursing homes.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he was standing by Cuomo’s announcement on large gatherings and called the city’s rising numbers “striking and troubling.” He said New York City saw 42 new cases in a day.
“We don’t do any of this lightly, this is difficult,” he said in a Thursday news conference. “We know it has a serious, serious impact on a number of businesses… that’s really, really painful for the many, many people who work in that field.”
Similar directives were issued by California, Oregon, New Mexico, Ohio and Utah leaders, who urged the cancellation of large public events.
In Georgia, which had its first death Thursday and reported 31 cases, officials have designated a state park with emergency mobile units as an isolation location for residents who test positive, CNN affiliate WSB reported.
At least nine school districts — including the state’s three largest — also announced closures as early as Friday and lasting up to two weeks.
Ohio, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico and Kentucky became the first states to announce statewide shutdowns on all schools K-12.
‘We’re shutting down most of our structures of society’
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, who also on Thursday banned mass gatherings, said the state should “treat this like it is. And that is a crisis.”
The state has reported five positive cases, but Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton said it’s likely that number is not even close to the real amount of infections.
“We know now, just the fact of community spread says that at least 1%… of our population is carrying the virus in Ohio today,” Acton said in a news conference Thursday. “We have 11.7 million people. So the math is over 100,000. That just gives you a sense of how this virus spreads and is spreading quickly.”
“The steps we are taking will absolutely save lives,” she said on the governor’s actions. “We’re all sort of waking up to this new reality.”
She said the state government would be releasing fact sheets and check lists to help residents “figure out what this new norm is going to be like.”
“We are basically slowly shutting down most of our structures of society,” she said.
Acton said 52 other people are also currently under investigation for coronavirus and the people that those residents likely came into contact with are in “the hundreds.”
Drive-through testing begins
Ohio isn’t alone in its estimates. Health officials have said the number of US cases is likely to be much higher and will continue to climb as more Americans are tested.
But that process, initially conducted by the CDC, has proved faulty. The slow rollout prompted the federal government to approve private labs to conduct their own testing and has so far sent more than a million tests out. Vice President Mike Pence said four million more would be available by the end of the week.
Fauci, with the National Institutes of Health, told a congressional committee Thursday the testing system currently in place is not geared to the country’s needs and “that is a failing.”
“The idea of anybody getting it (test) easily, the way people in other countries are doing it, we’re not set up for that,” Fauci said. “Do I think we should be? Yes, but we’re not.”
Communities in New York, Illinois and Colorado began moving toward drive-through testing.
Cuomo announced New York will have the first drive-through testing facility on the east coast and officials will start testing people by appointment in New Rochelle — a suburb community that saw more than 100 cases in a little more than a week.
A suburban Illinois hospital said they would try doing the same thing, telling residents they could drive up to an ambulance and get tested without ever getting out of their car, CNN affiliate WGN reported.
In Colorado’s first drive-up facility, officials said residents will need a doctor’s note saying they need to get tested, CNN affiliate KMGH reported. Wait times ranged from three to four hours Thursday, the news station said, citing the Colorado Department of Health and Environment.