California and Texas backtrack due to surge in covid-19 cases

The governor of California ordered this Sunday the mandatory closure of bars and clubs in seven counties of the State, including Los Angeles, the most populous county, before the worrying increase in the last week of the numbers of positive cases and hospitalizations for covid -19. The decision comes two days after a similar move in Texas, the first state that has been forced to back down in de-escalation.

The fact that the two most populous states in the United States have had to back down in reopening the economy has served this weekend as a powerful reminder that the pandemic is far from being controlled.

“This is a very, very serious situation and the window is closing to act and control the situation,” Health Secretary Alex Azar said on television on Sunday morning.

The largest single-day increase in cases so far occurred Friday, with 40,173 new cases reported, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The previous record for positives in a single day had been Thursday. There have been more than 2.5 million confirmed cases in the United States since the start of the pandemic, and the death toll exceeds 125,000.

“Covid-19 continues to circulate in California and in some parts of the state, it is getting stronger,” California Governor Gavin Newsom said in a statement. “So this action is critical to stem the spread of the virus in counties that are experiencing the largest increases (in cases).”

The decision must be applied by the local authorities. Los Angeles mayor supported closing bars in a tweet. The bars had started to reopen on the 12th. The reversal of the de-escalation is a harsh reminder of the risks.

California was in a relatively optimistic quarantine relaxation strategy after four months in which it has managed to maintain very low numbers of infections, hospitalizations and deaths in relation to its population (40 million inhabitants). It was the first state to close its economy, on March 19, and until now had shown great stability in the data on infections. At no time has it come close, by far, to the worst-case scenario, the one in which beds are lacking to care for the sick.

At the other extreme, Texas has faced the pandemic with some institutional skepticism, not without some political motivation to align itself with Donald Trump. However, on Friday, Governor Greg Abbott was forced to order the closing of bars due to the growth of cases in all the large urban areas of the State, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and Houston. Texas figures are beginning to resemble those of Brazil.

“Cases in large metropolitan areas seem to be increasing very fast and some models are on the verge of being apocalyptic,” Peter Hotez, an expert at Baylor University in Houston, said on CNN.

Experts caution that increasing positives is only the first step. Current figures will lead to increases in hospitalizations and intensive care and, within a week, to an increase in deaths. White House health adviser Anthony Fauci, the US benchmark for infectious diseases, said last week in Congress that the increase was “troubling” and revealed an acceleration of “community contagion.” The cases reached 30,000 a day at the beginning of the pandemic and then stabilized at around 20,000. Now, infections are increasing by about 5% daily in 26 states.

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