WASHINGTON – The U.S. is moving quickly toward relaxing restrictions and opening commerce from the coronavirus shutdown, but a leading expert on the pandemic says the result will be more infections and deaths.
Governors in 47 of the 50 U.S. states have now eased commercial restrictions, allowing stores, restaurants and other businesses to reopen on a limited basis, while often requiring that social distancing of at least two meters be maintained. Mostly, however, the states have not met federal guidelines for a declining number of infections over a two-week period.
Protesters in many states have demanded the resumption of commerce so they could return to work and shop as they once did, although a Pew Research Center poll in the U.S. shows nearly two-thirds of Americans remain wary of resuming their pre-coronavirus lives.
Nearly 80,000 people have died in the U.S. from the pandemic, by far more than in any other country across the world. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington now forecasts more than 137,000 Americans will die by early August, an increase from its projection of 134,000 a week ago, which is attributed to the relaxation of coronavirus restrictions throughout the U.S.
IHME Director Dr. Christopher Murray said, “Unless and until we see accelerated testing, contact tracing, isolating people who test positive, and widespread use of masks in public, there is a significant likelihood of new infections.”
U.S. President Donald Trump, facing a re-election contest against former Vice President Joe Biden on Nov. 3, is pushing the U.S. to reopen as quickly as possible while acknowledging that more Americans are likely to die as a result.
On Twitter, Trump claimed Monday, “Coronavirus numbers are looking MUCH better, going down almost everywhere. Big progress being made!”
He added, “The Democrats are moving slowly, all over the USA, for political purposes. They would wait until November 3rd if it were up to them. Don’t play politics. Be safe, move quickly!”
Trump is scheduled to speak late Monday afternoon on the role of coronavirus testing in the national economy. White House officials are voicing concern about two positive coronavirus tests among personnel working at the executive mansion, a valet for Trump and Katie Miller, the press secretary for Vice President Mike Pence.
On Sunday, White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett told CBS’s “Face the Nation” show, “It is scary to go to work. But, you know, it’s the time when people have to step up and serve their country.”
Pence continues to test negative for the coronavirus and is not quarantining. He is planning to be at the White House on Monday for a video conference with state governors on the response to the coronavirus and “economic revival.”
But three key U.S. health officials who came within proximity of people infected at the White House are taking precautions, either staying home or wearing masks while at the White House.
Dr. Anthony Fauci – a key White House expert in the fight against the coronavirus – is self-isolating although he has tested negative. Two other top members of the White House coronavirus task force – Food and Drug Administration chief Stephen Hahn and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Robert Redfield – are self-quarantining for two weeks after attending a meeting where one of the infected staff members was present.
New York, the hardest-hit U.S. state with nearly 27,000 deaths, is looking to reopen some businesses Friday, following similar moves in many other states that have seen fewer infections.
As part of the plan, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered mandatory coronavirus testing twice a week for workers at care homes, and hospitals can no longer discharge patients to the facilities unless the patients have tested negative for COVID-19.