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COVID-19 Cases Spike In Texas, Florida, And Arizona After Re-opening

Government officials have a precarious tightrope to walk regarding the coronavirus pandemic. Shutting down an economy is not an easy thing to do, but the consequences of letting a deadly virus run rampant were unacceptable. One study has shown that shutting down and restricting people's movement as much as possible was the right choice, and likely prevented at least 60 million infections just in the U.S.

Nevertheless, after six weeks of shutdown, many states were eager to get people back to work and started making plans to re-open businesses as much as possible. Although public health officials worried that states might be re-opening too soon, many forged ahead all the same. Now, just a couple of weeks after the Memorial Day long weekend, it looks like the public health officials were right to worry.

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Even as New York, once the epicenter of the global COVID-19 pandemic, reported no deaths from the disease for the first time since March, case numbers in the U.S. continued to rise.

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According to Johns Hopkins data, the U.S. has surpassed two million confirmed cases and 113,000 known deaths from the disease, so despite New York's good news, the pandemic has not gone away. If anything, data suggests it's shifting south and west as states that appeared to have flattened their curves now report significant numbers of new infections. In fact, almost half of states have reported that their case numbers are rising, the Associated Press reported.

Among the most troubling are Arizona, Florida, and Texas.

Arizona's stay-at-home order ended May 15, but social distancing guidelines were still emphasized.

Nevertheless, the state has seen a 300% increase in infections since May 1, CNBC reported. Although testing has ramped up, the proportion of tests coming back positive has also increased. Over seven days in early June, the state averaged more than 1,000 new cases per day.

Arizona is reportedly at 84% of its hospital capacity and 78% of its ICU capacity. At a press conference, Governor Doug Ducey stressed that the state has a surge capacity of 2,600 extra beds and 600 ICU beds if needed.

Case numbers and hospitalizations have been trending upwards in Texas since the end of May as well.

In early June, Texas started seeing new records set in terms of number of new cases per day, setting a new high on June 11 with more than 2,500 new cases confirmed, and the state has reported a 42% increase in hospitalizations due to the disease since Memorial Day, the Texas Tribune.

A spokesperson for Governor Greg Abbott assured that the state has enough hospital beds, with 13,600 still open. "Every Texan who needs access to a hospital bed will have access to a hospital bed," the spokesperson told the Tribune.

Florida, meanwhile, has also seen a spike in COVID-19 cases.

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As furloughed workers started returning to the state's many theme parks, Florida reported a record 1,698 new cases on June 11, bringing the total to more than 69,000 cases and 2,848 deaths, ClickOrlando reported.

"This is a big deal. And it’s getting worse. We were so close to zero. Close. And then we started opening up, which we should," said Seminole County Medical Director Dr. Todd Husty at a press conference, as he underscored the need to continue with social distancing, hand washing, and mask wearing.

Rising case numbers in other states have their governors re-thinking their re-opening plans.

Oregon Governor Kate Brown announced a pause on her state's re-opening plan due to increasing case numbers, and North Carolina's public health officials stated that stay-at-home orders could be re-instituted there.

"If we need to go back to stay-at-home [orders], we will," Mandy Cohen, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, told NPR. "I hope we don't have to. I think there are things we can do before we have to get there, but yes, we are concerned."

The common theme from public health officials has been the need to continue acting responsibly as states re-open.

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In Arizona, Dr. Farshad Marvasti, the University of Arizona College of Medicine director of public health and prevention, said that it all comes down to personal choices.

"It’s not a question of whether we should’ve reopened when we did or not. It’s how we did in terms of the behavior of individuals," he told CNBC. "Most folks have been out and about in close spaces, including nightclubs, bars, malls, restaurants without any mask-wearing, and I think that’s a big contributor to what’s going on."

The message was the same from officials in Florida, too.

"The virus is still in our community, it still can be spread from person to person and people who have underlying health conditions and who are elderly certainly can suffer complications and even die from this virus," Florida Department of Health in Seminole Health Officer Donna Walsh said, according to ClickOrlando.

"The message has not changed. We just need to continue to take those precautions and protect each other."

h/t: CNBC, The Texas Tribune, ClickOrlando, AP News, NPR