The number of coronavirus cases has continued to climb in almost half of the 50 U.S. states as many continue rolling back regulations meant to help slow the spread of the highly contagious virus. The reasons for the increases are different for each state, as some have seen an increase in testing while others have seen local outbreaks. However, some experts told The Associated Press that the lifting of stay-at-home orders and opening up schools and businesses have contributed to the coronavirus' ongoing spread.
"It is a disaster that spreads," Dr. Jay Butler, whose work at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention focuses on the coronavirus response, told the AP Thursday. "It’s not like there’s an entire continental seismic shift and everyone feels the shaking all at once." Johns Hopkins University estimates there are 100,000 confirmed cases worldwide each day. In the U.S., the number of confirmed cases passed 2 million this week. The death toll reached 114,000 in the U.S., and over 423,000 globally.
When the coronavirus first hit the U.S., the epicenter was the Northeast, but states in the South and the West have seen the largest increases in cases recently. Analysis by the AP and the COVID Tracking Project found that 21 states saw a rolling seven-day average of new cases higher than the previous seven-day average. Four of the states identified - Arizona, Oklahoma, Florida and Texas - will soon host President Donald Trump's first rallies since March.
In Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey's stay-at-home order expired on May 15 and the restrictions on businesses have continued to be relaxed. Then, about 10 days later, the state saw a surge in new cases and hospitalizations. Once the order ended, there were no face mask requirements and no increase in contact tracing to understand where outbreaks began. The state recently saw its 1,000th death due to the coronavirus, and hospitalizations jumped to 1,200 last week. "It seems pretty clear to me that what we’re seeing is directly related to the end of the stay-at-home order," Will Humble, the executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association, told the AP.
North Carolina saw an increase in cases due to increased testing. On Saturday, the state saw 1,370 new cases, its largest single-day increase yet. Kimberly Powers, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of North Carolina, said the reopening is also partly to blame. Gov. Roy Cooper has asked the public to take precautions, but the state still said face maks will not be required until schools reopen.
In Texas, hospitalizations jump passed 2,100 on Wednesday, a 42% increase since Memorial Day weekend. State officials said outbreaks at meatpacking plants and prisons are responsible for the jump in cases there, but did not explain why numbers are climbing elsewhere. Gov. Greg Abbott has continued soldiering on with reopening plans. On Friday, Texas started Phase 3, which will allow restaurants to be reopened at 75% capacity.
The protests of police brutality and racial inequality that began across the country after George Floyd's murder on May 25 could have an impact on the coronavirus spread. While many protesters were seen wearing masks and taking precautions, they have still packed into areas and were unable to social distance themselves from one another. "Hopefully we won't see a big spike," Humble told the AP. "But those data aren’t in yet."