For a brief moment, much of the country seemed to forget about the coronavirus pandemic because of the high-stakes presidential election. But highly contagious viruses do not stop just because people would like to focus on something else, and experts have been warning for months that the United States should be prepared for another wave of increasing cases. That wave is here — and lockdown measures are imminently to follow.
Right now, there have been over 10 million COVID-19 cases nationwide and over a quarter of a million deaths. The country has been breaking the daily records for new cases in the past month alone: As of Tuesday, the seven-day average was more than 123,000 new cases per day. As of Wednesday, 65,368 people were hospitalized around the country with COVID-19, which is the largest number at any point so far during the pandemic. Nearly the entire country is seeing uncontrolled community spread of the virus, not long after re-opening measures were instituted in most states. But with the rising numbers only expected to get worse, many states are reversing course and putting lockdown measures back in place.
On Wednesday, New York announced new restrictions and paused elements of their re-opening process. “This is our LAST chance to stop a second wave,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio wrote on Twitter. “We can do it, but we have to act NOW.” The new restrictions include limiting gatherings to 10 or less people indoors, and closing restaurants and bars at 10 p.m.
Other states are following suit. New Jersey Gov. Philip D. Murphy put new limits on indoor dining, Connecticut issued limits on gatherings and reduced capacity for dining establishments, and Massachusetts has instituted overnight stay-at-home orders. Ohio issued a mask mandate, and other states, like Iowa, North Carolina, and Indiana, have put limits on indoor gathering. California has banned indoor dining again and paused the re-openings of schools. Utah and Maryland also began tightening restrictions on public indoor gatherings.
How strict the limits become and how many states adapt them is yet to be seen, but with cases spiking the way they are, people across the country should expect their state to follow suit with at least some new restrictions. People should also brace themselves for lockdowns in some places as numbers go up, which will be difficult as outdoor gatherings become harder as the weather gets colder, and will put a damper on the winter holiday season.
“You should be prepared for how bad it’s going to get,” infectious disease doctor William Haseltine told The Daily Beast, adding that “we’re not even near the peak.”