First came the freezes.
Governors last month started to “press pause” on the next phases of their reopenings as Covid-19 cases picked back up. Now, in certain hot spots, they are starting to roll back some of the allowances they’d granted: no more elective medical procedures in some Texas counties. Bars, only reopened for a short time, are shuttered again in parts of California. And on Monday, Arizona’s governor ordered a new wave of gym, bar, and movie theater closures for at least the next month.
These are measured retreats — a far cry from the lockdowns that much of the country burrowed into starting in March. But leaders are desperately hoping that the incremental approach can make a dent in the spread of the virus at a time when another round of lockdowns — and their accompanying disruptions to education, the economy, and the public psyche — seems beyond unpalatable, both politically and socially.
They come as Texas, Florida, and other states are seeing record highs in daily coronavirus infections and intensive care units are teetering toward capacity, further proof that the coronavirus will run loose when given the chance. They also raise a serious question: whether such half-measures are sufficiently intensive — and were put in place in time — to have the necessary impact.
“This is a good step to getting a handle on the epidemic,” said Ana Bento, a disease ecologist at Indiana University. “It still might not be enough.”
Even before states began to emerge from their lockdowns, experts were already trying to gauge which cocktail of interventions they could turn to should cases spiral again without having to rely on stay-at-home measures. They hoped more precise interventions — whether focused only on certain communities or business sectors or designed to protect the most vulnerable — could put out flare-ups of cases, a way to balance preventing the spread of Covid-19 from swamping health systems while still sustaining some semblance of society and economic activity.
Now, states are going to find out if more targeted approaches can work. If they don’t, and if people don’t embrace other basic precautions like masking and distancing, it could require governors to reinstate even more restrictions. And if communities can’t contain their outbreaks, what might be left is another stay-at-home period — a sign, experts say, that economies won’t function until local epidemics are mitigated. [Continue reading…]