Confusion reigns as states claw back coronavirus reopenings amid surge

As government officials attempt to handle a near-unprecedented pandemic event that has killed more than 125,000 Americans, citizens are now facing health orders that seem to change by the day — as cases in many places in the U.S. surge, placing hospitals under stress and worrying officials who are tasked with keeping their constituents safe.

Plans for a steady and gradual reopening amid the coronavirus have effectively been scrambled in many states.

Instead, those efforts have been put on hold in places including Texas and Arizona, while other states, including California and Oregon, have mandated face coverings in public. Meanwhile, many local governments are taking measures into their own hands with restrictions like mask requirements, and others are resisting their states’ health measures.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, amid a surge in cases in his state, took steps to reduce bar capacity and ban alcohol sales, describing “the very swift and very dangerous turn” the virus had taken in his state. Texas was one of the first states to begin reopening. Now it’s one of many across the South and West to see cases rebounding in recent weeks.


That led to a commitment of federal resources by Vice President Pence, as federal officials announced funding for testing sites would be extended for 14 days.

And in Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey ordered the closure of bars, gyms, movie theaters, nightclubs and water parks across the state for 30 days to combat a spike in coronavirus cases. Ducey said his state was “going in the wrong direction” as he re-imposed the strict limits on the state’s economy.

In Oregon, Gov. Kate Brown announced citizens are now required to wear face coverings inside public indoor spaces, citing concerning numbers about hospital capacity in her state.

“Modeling from the Oregon Health Authority shows that if we don’t take further action to reduce the spread of the disease, our hospitals could be overwhelmed by new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations within weeks,” the Democratic governor said. “I do not want to have to close down businesses again like other states are now doing. If you want your local shops and restaurants to stay open, then wear a face covering when out in public.”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom also took a similar step to mandate masks, only to quickly meet backlash as a number of local governments and police departments said they wouldn’t enforce the order. He has also begun reinstating a stay-at-home order in at least one county.


Other states pausing or reversing their reopenings include Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Washington and New York.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, along with his counterparts in New Jersey and Connecticut, released an updated travel advisory list on Tuesday to include 16 states from which people are required to quarantine for 14 days if they travel to the tri-state area.

“As an increasing number of states around the country fight significant community spread, New York is taking action to maintain the precarious safety of its phased, data-driven reopening,” Cuomo said in a statement.

In New Jersey, indoor dining, which was scheduled to resume July 2, has been postponed indefinitely. Maine postponed indoor bar service indefinitely as well. Florida ordered nightclubs and bars to suspend alcohol sales. North Carolina also mandates face coverings.

All of this has contributed to exhaustion among Americans, who want to see a light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to the pandemic, but are also are concerned about the health risks to them and their families that the novel coronavirus poses.

Lockdowns were originally supposed to go a few weeks — just until hospital capacity could be built up. Then they were extended with little end in sight. Then they were lifted at various speeds in various states, and are now being clawed back in some places with surging cases that are threatening hospital capacity.

Protests against coronavirus lockdowns were widely declared as misguided and dangerous. Then even larger protests against police brutality and racism were widely encouraged by government officials.


The U.S. government, in the early stages of the pandemic, actively discouraged people from buying and wearing masks. Then, as evidence of asymptomatic spread emerged, masks were recommended for people without coronavirus symptoms.

Now, some states and localities are mandating masks indoors and in outdoor public places where social distancing is not easy.

One of those places is Jacksonville, Fla., which was chosen as the new site for the Republican National Convention later this summer expressly because it had lighter coronavirus restrictions than North Carolina, where the convention was first scheduled.

Bethany Mandel, an editor at Ricochet and a podcaster, this week addressed some of the confusion many are feeling as a result of the whiplash government dicta as officials attempt to understand the coronavirus and what the best ways are to protect people from the pandemic, which has killed more than 125,000 Americans.

“You want people to wear masks after weeks of telling them not to? Say: ‘We think this helps. We honestly are not sure, but evidence points to it helps.’ Not ‘You’re a selfish idiot of you don’t do this thing we have suddenly decided will save us but we eschewed 2 months ago,'” she tweeted. “A LITTLE HUMILITY WHEN YOU’VE BEEN CONSISTENTLY WRONG ABOUT EVERYTHING. THAT’S WHAT I’M ASKING.”


But at a Senate hearing on Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has been the face of the federal government’s coronavirus response, warned that coronavirus spread is increasing in the United States and that while the country is currently seeing about 40,000 new coronavirus cases per day, it could soon be facing about 100,000 cases per day.

“I am very concerned,” he said.

Fauci has previously emphasized that following public health measures like wearing a mask will allow governments to lift coronavirus restrictions faster by reducing the rate the virus spreads.

Fox News’ Peter Aitken, Louis Casiano, Courtney Lesskis, Stephanie Pagones and Morgan Phillips contributed to this report. 

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