The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

States moving forward with reopening are seeing increases in new coronavirus cases

People in those states, though, are no more supportive of resuming normal retail activity.

Protesters hold signs during a rally against California's stay-at-home orders that were put in place due to the coronavirus outbreak, in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., Sunday, May 3, 2020. (Watchara Phomicinda/Orange County Register/AP)

One month ago, seven states made up 60 percent of the coronavirus cases in the country. Most of those cases were in New York, the main U.S. hotbed of the outbreak. But an additional 28 percent of cases were in California, Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan and New Jersey.

The good news is that the number of new cases those states have seen each day over the past month has steadily fallen. The bad news? That the number of new cases everywhere else has steadily increased.

There’s some irony to this, given how these two groups of states are responding to calls from President Trump to scale back efforts to contain the spread of the virus. States that expect to keep restrictions in place aimed at encouraging social distancing — including most of the seven states above — have seen drops in the number of new daily cases relative to a month ago. States that have already begun to scale back those measures have seen a rapid increase in daily case totals relative to one month ago.

Again, that trend was in place prior to calls for states to begin efforts to return to normal activity.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday before traveling to Arizona, Trump argued that there was enormous demand for states to resume normal activity.

“Our country wants to open,” Trump said. “And you see what’s going on. They have to open. And the people of our country should think of themselves as warriors. Our country has to open.”

If thinking of oneself as a warrior means being willing to accept the risk of contracting the virus in order to get back to normal, a new poll from The Post and the University of Maryland suggests that most Americans probably aren’t quite there.

While Democrats are more worried about becoming ill from the virus than are Republicans, most Americans say they are very or somewhat worried about that possibility. Interestingly, there’s no difference among those in states that have begun scaling back restrictions (or didn’t have any in the first place) and other states. In both, most people express concern about the virus.

In both categories of state, too, the partisan split on views of whether the worst in their community is behind them or still to come doesn’t exist. In both cases, more people think the worst effects of the pandemic are looming for their communities.

Democrats are more worried about the pandemic than Republicans in both states that are starting to reopen and those that aren’t — but there’s no significant difference in how partisans in one type of state feel relative to the other. Residents of states that are reopening also express no more enthusiasm about venturing back out to retail shops, grocery stores or restaurants than do people in states that are maintaining distancing measures.

In other words, the following all appear to be the case:

  • Residents of states that are reopening are no more likely to be clamoring for businesses to reopen.
  • Residents of those states are just as likely as people overall to express concern about the virus.
  • The rate of new infections in those states has been increasing, while the rate in states maintaining distancing measures has been slowing.

This is an admittedly broad assessment. It also leaves out an important factor that might be motivating policymakers like Trump: Republicans support reopening states.

“You see what’s going on,” the president said, referring to rallies involving a lot of “reopen now” signs and a lot of “Trump 2020” signs. It seems safe to assume that images like that carry more weight with Trump than will a Post-University of Maryland poll.