The race to control coronavirus in the US has taken a drastic turn as the CDC urged all gatherings of 50 or more people to be canceled or postponed for the next eight weeks.
And more states are adding their own rules. Schools across New Jersey and New York are about to close, adding to the more than 30 million students unable to go to class. Many restaurants across the country can’t have dine-in guests. Even some public beaches in Florida are closing.
But some say these precautions are still not enough to stop the virus, which has infected more than 4,000 people and killed at least 70 in the US, according to the CDC.
“I think it’s good that the CDC and the federal government is increasingly leaning into more aggressive measures. But I think we’ve got to move a lot faster than that,” former US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said Monday.
“I would not feel safe with people getting together in groups of 20 people. … I don’t think we should tell people to go on play dates with groups of friends and catch up with small groups over lunch or dinner,” Murthy said.
“These may seem extreme. But the consequences of not doing so are even more extreme — (both) the health consequences and the economic consequences.”
Two factors are helping fuel this pandemic: the fact that people with no symptoms can easily spread the virus, and problems with testing in the US.
So more states are adding new rules on social distancing.
New York, New Jersey and Connecticut announced a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday in a joint call with the other two governors.
In those three states, casinos, gyms and movie theaters will close at 8 p.m. ET Monday and remain closed until further notice, Cuomo said. All dine-in services at bars and restaurants must stop at 8 p.m. ET Monday and transition to take-out only services..
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan ordered the closure of all casinos, racetracks and simulcast betting facilities starting at midnight Monday.
“These are unprecedented actions in an extraordinary situation, but they could be the difference in saving lives and keeping people safe,” Hogan said.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker ordered all bars and restaurants to close to the public starting Monday night until March 30. Illinois officials are working with restaurant owners and food delivery services to coordinate so restaurants can keep kitchens open for food delivery, Pritzker said.
New Jersey residents shouldn’t travel from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., with the exception of essential travel, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday. That guideline remains in effect for the foreseeable future.
Washington state will shut down bars, restaurants and recreational facilities. Gov. Jay Inslee said he will sign the shutdown order and issue a ban on gatherings larger than 50 people on Monday.
And Massachusetts, which had previously banned gatherings of 250 people or more, reduced that number to no more than 25 on Sunday.
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases announced Monday that aparticipant in a novel coronavirus vaccine trial has received the first dose.
But experts say it will be many more months before a vaccine could be come available to the public.
That’s because this study, which is a Phase I trial, is meant to see whether the vaccine is safe and induces a desired response from participants’ immune systems.
Proving that the vaccine can prevent coronavirus infection, however, will require follow-up studies and many more participants.
Schools and sporting arenas go dark
Across the country, more than 30 million students in at least 31 states are missing classes due to the coronavirus outbreak. They include students in Los Angeles and New York City.
In New Jersey, “All pre-K through grade 12 schools (public, private, and parochial) and all colleges and universities will close effective Wednesday, March 18th until it’s deemed by health officials to be safe for in-person classes to resume,” Gov. Murphy tweeted Monday.
Cuomo said all public schools in New York state will close, though the timing has yet to be finalized.
In the sports world, the National Basketball Association, National Hockey Association and the Major League Soccer have all had cancellations.
Disney theme parks — normally bustling this time of year with spring break revelers — are closed through the end of the month.
And in the city that never sleeps, New York City, Broadway theaters have suspended performances.
Travel nightmares abound
Many travelers scrambled to get into the US after new travel restrictions were announced over the weekend.
Earlier, the Trump administration restricted travel from 26 European countries in the Schengen free movement zone. On Saturday, Vice President Mike Pence added the United Kingdom and Ireland to the list starting Monday night.
The Department of Homeland Security has clarified that the ban does not apply to American citizens, so US travelers will be allowed to return, provided they “have undergone appropriate screenings” beforehand.
Travelers waited for hours at international airports in New York, Texas and Chicago this weekend to get through health screenings upon their arrival into the US.
Customs and Border Patrol Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan said all locations will have an increase in staff to help process travelers.
Airlines have suspended service to some destinations and are cutting flight capacity.
In a memo to its employees, Delta Air Lines said it’s facing worse conditions and making even deeper cuts than after the 9/11 terror attacks.
“The speed of the demand fall-off is unlike anything we’ve seen,” CEO Ed Bastian wrote in the memo.
What does this mean for economy?
The Federal Reserve announced Sunday that interest rates would be cut to near zero to “support the flow of credit.”
“These measures, which are essential to contain the outbreak will nonetheless … take a toll on the economy in the near term,” Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said.
Then there’s the problem of limited supplies. Officials are urging Americans not to hoard supplies.
“Supply chains in the United States are strong, and it is unnecessary for the American public to hoard daily essentials,” according to a readout of a conference call President Donald Trump had with grocery store and supply chain executives around the country.
White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere said Americans don’t need to worry about running out of daily items.
“All of the executives are working hand-in-hand with the Federal Government, as well as State and local leaders, to ensure food and essentials are constantly available,” Deere said.