The decision was the latest indication that America’s summer surge remains in full swing, and that policymakers are being forced to retreat from promises made in May and June of a respite from coronavirus-mandated shutdowns.
There were ample indications Monday that the pandemic will continue to severely disrupt life in the United States for months to come.
School leaders in Los Angeles, San Diego and Atlanta said their districts will begin the year online, rather than in person. Oregon’s governor banned gatherings of more than 10 people inside and ordered face coverings for those who venture out. The Chicago Marathon — not planned until mid-October — was canceled for only the second time in its history.
Meanwhile, Miami was declared the latest “epicenter of the epidemic,” and a senior medical official compared it to Wuhan at the height of China’s struggles with the virus.
“The skyrocketing infection rates of the past few weeks make it clear the pandemic is not under control,” said a joint statement from Los Angeles Unified and San Diego Unified school districts, the state’s two largest.
Monday’s data reflected the reality that other nations across the globe have managed to suppress the virus, but not the United States. In at least 12 states, the weekly average of new coronavirus cases increased by more than 40 percent, according to data tracked by The Washington Post.
While states such as Florida and Arizona for weeks have been major hot spots for the U.S. outbreak, Monday’s figures showed that the virus continues to spread widely beyond the hard-hit Sun Belt states.
Virginia, West Virginia, Alaska, Missouri, Hawaii, Rhode Island and Minnesota all saw the average rate of new infections rise between 41 and 55 percent compared with the week of July 6.
Colorado, Kentucky, the District of Columbia, Montana, North Dakota and the Virgin Islands saw increases of average new infections at a rate of 63 percent or higher. Sparsely populated North Dakota had a particularly intense week, with the number of infections nearly doubling from 44 to 84.
U.S. infectious-disease point man Anthony S. Fauci said the country had not “even begun to see the end” of the coronavirus.
In a webinar with the Stanford School of Medicine, Fauci — who has been under assault from the White House, despite serving as the administration’s top scientific adviser on the coronavirus — blamed summer outbreaks on states that had gone from shutdowns to “complete throwing caution to the wind.”
Fauci last week suggested that some states may need to revert to shutdowns. But he was more cautious Monday, suggesting that they may simply need to “pull back a bit.”
California’s new orders did more than that: Its new restrictions represent some of the most far-reaching rollbacks of any state.
“It’s incumbent upon all of us to recognize soberly that covid-19 is not going away any time soon until there is a vaccine and/or an effective therapy,” Newsom (D) said at a news conference.
Among the troubling trends the governor highlighted: a seven-day average of new cases topping 8,000, an increasing number of virus hospitalizations and the attendant rise in patients seeking help at intensive care units. The list of counties with additional targeted closures — which already includes more than half of the state’s 58 — is expected to grow longer in the coming days, Newsom said.
To the north, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) banned indoor gatherings of more than 10 people and required face coverings outside. The fresh round of restrictions echoes the pandemic’s early days, when states shuttered businesses in an attempt to slow the spread.
California trails only Florida and Texas for the most new infections reported each day, according to the data compiled and analyzed by The Post. Governors in those two states, both Republicans, have refused to go as far as Newsom or Brown did in seeking to suppress the current surge.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis closed bars late last month, but has defied calls for a broader retrenchment from the rapid reopening he oversaw starting in early May.
Florida on Sunday shattered all previous records for new daily cases among U.S. states, with 15,300. It added another 12,624 on Monday. Still, many aspects of life have continued to go on — including the reopening of Disney World over the weekend. The state is due to host the Republican National Convention next month.
But health experts say the situation is increasingly untenable, particularly in the urban core at the state’s southeastern tip.
“Miami is now the epicenter of the pandemic,” said Lilian Abbo, an infectious-disease specialist from the University of Miami Health System. “What we were seeing in Wuhan six months ago, now we’re there.”
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez (R) told “Good Morning America” that “there is no doubt that our death rate is going to go up after the next week or two.”
The sobering assessment came as drugmakers continued to race toward the development of a vaccine that could help to halt the spread of a virus that has led to at least 3.3 million cases and more than 132,000 deaths in the United States.
The Food and Drug Administration on Monday granted “fast-track” status to two covid-19 vaccine candidates developed by American drugmaker Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech. The move raises the possibility that a successful vaccine could be put into production by year’s end or early 2021, the companies announced Monday.
Also hopeful was news out of New York, where Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) celebrated the city’s first day in months without a coronavirus death. But the mayor, who has overseen a cautious reopening, also preached continued vigilance. “It’s something that should make us hopeful, but it’s very hard to take a victory lap because we know we have so much more ahead,” he said, noting the spikes in other states and rising infection rates among younger people in New York.
“Even though overall we have seen a huge reduction in the presence of the coronavirus in the city, we do see one trend that’s worrisome for young adults. We see the infections rising,” he said. “The particular group we’re concerned about is 20-year-olds to 29-year-olds.”
Democratic leaders have generally favored a more cautious approach to reopening, while Republicans have tended to push for more rapid returns to normal economic life. Face masks, too, have been divisive, with President Trump having mocked those who wear them — and refusing, until recently, to don one himself.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who favors mask use, noted pointedly on Monday that “some people” have politicized the issue, though he did not specify who.
Among the public, Democrats are much more likely than Republicans to wear a face mask outside the home, according to a poll released by Gallup on Monday.
Sixty-one percent of Democrats say they always wear a mask, compared with 24 percent of Republicans, according to the poll results. Meanwhile, 27 percent of Republicans say they never wear a mask outside the home, compared with only 1 percent of Democrats.
Trump has consistently boasted about the U.S. response to the virus. But current and former members of his administration have acknowledged serious flaws and continued to do so Monday.
Mick Mulvaney, the former acting White House chief of staff, wrote in an op-ed that the United States still has a “testing problem” and said policymakers need to realize that the “current economic crisis is public-health driven.”
“I know it isn’t popular to talk about in some Republican circles, but we still have a testing problem in this country,” Mulvaney, who left the White House in March, said in the piece published by CNBC. “My son was tested recently; we had to wait 5 to 7 days for results.”
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D) said Monday that her wait for test results was even longer after her husband came down with coronavirus symptoms, and that the virus spread through her household as the family waited.
“It took us eight days to get our previous testing. Certainly, had we known that we had someone in the house who was asymptomatic, we would’ve taken all due precautions,” the mayor, who announced last week that she had tested positive, told CNN. “But this is the issue we’re having across the country. And it’s the reason why we cannot get to the other side of this virus.”
Kim Bellware, Jacqueline Dupree, Reis Thebault, Laura Meckler, Lateshia Beachum, John Wagner and Hannah Denham contributed to this report.