After weeks of falling coronavirus infections, over a dozen states began lifting social distancing rules yet again this week, worrying public health experts who believe them to be premature — and who warn of a resurgence like the one last spring that followed an easing of restrictions.
People sit at the bar of a restaurant in Austin, Texas in June of 2020.
Texas and Mississippi announced Tuesday they will rescind virtually all their Covid-19 restrictions, lifting mask mandates and allowing businesses to open at full capacity — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) tweeted, “Texas is OPEN 100%” starting next week.
Arizona and West Virginia ended capacity limits for restaurants and other businesses on Friday, but social distancing measures and mask mandates will remain in place, and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) told residents, “we are not in the clear yet.”
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont became one of the first Democrats to lift many of his state’s Covid-19 restrictions on Thursday, promising to eliminate capacity limits on restaurants, stores, gyms and other businesses starting in two weeks.
On Monday, Massachusetts lifted its capacity limits for indoor dining, and South Carolina and Virginia eased their mandatory “last call” curfews for bars and restaurants, decisions all three states’ governors announced last week.
Virginia, Wyoming, South Carolina and Pennsylvania all loosened their restrictions on gathering sizes starting Monday.
Louisiana, Kentucky, Michigan and some other cities and states made more granular changes this week, including easing capacity restrictions on restaurants.
U.S. coronavirus cases and deaths plummeted last month after peaking in January, and millions of vaccines are reaching American patients’ arms every day, making some observers optimistic the country is moving in the right direction. Still, experts have remained cautious. When states tried to reopen businesses after last spring’s lockdowns, cases quickly shot up again over the summer and forced some states to clamp down again, and lax social distancing restrictions last fall were partly blamed for the country’s latest and most brutal surge. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warns this latest loosening of restrictions could cause the country to recede back into yet another surge, continuing a yearlong pattern.
Walensky said Monday she’s “really worried” states are moving too quickly to lift their social distancing rules. The country’s infection rate has leveled off in recent weeks, she said, and new variants are making the virus more contagious. President Joe Biden took a sharper tone on Wednesday, deriding Texas’ and Mississippi’s decisions to lift their mask mandates as “Neanderthal thinking.”
A CDC study Friday found mask mandates are associated with lower rates of coronavirus cases and deaths, and counties tended to see a gradual uptick in cases and deaths after lifting their in-person dining restrictions.
CDC Chief Is ‘Really Worried’ About States Loosening Covid-19 Restrictions—Many Are Doing It Anyway (Forbes)
Texas And Mississippi Drop Covid-19 Restrictions — Even Mask Mandates (Forbes)
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