Summer setback: Cities put brakes on reopening as virus spikes again

The Trump administration, eager for an economic reboot, has downplayed the recent spike in coronavirus cases and attributed it to an expansion of testing and virus tracing. However, public health experts say increasing hospitalizations and positivity rates for coronavirus tests are worrying signals the virus is spreading in some of the first areas to open up over a month ago.

“There is no emergency, there is no second wave,” said White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow Friday, dismissing the idea of further widespread shutdowns. “What you do have is certain spots are seeing a little bit of a jump up.”

Trying to project a return to normalcy, Trump this week announced plans to hold his first campaign rally in months at a large indoor arena in Tulsa, Okla., next Friday. Public health experts, including the CDC on Friday, have warned large gatherings in confined places pose a high risk for infection.

The administration has largely deferred reopening plans to the states, with few following the White House’s suggested guidelines. CDC Director Robert Redfield on Friday said it’s possible some states or communities would need to shut down again if the virus keeps spreading but said those decisions will be made by local leaders. HHS Secretary Alex Azar on Friday also said any future shutdowns would be more localized.

“We think we have the tools we need to avoid the shutdowns in the future – at least on a national level,” Azar told reporters in a visit to a Boston hospital on Friday. “There could be isolated communities that have outbreaks that may create the need to implement mitigation measures.”

Most of Texas is moving forward with reopening amid record-breaking levels of hospitalizations, but Houston-area officials this week announced possible plans for reimposing stay-at-home orders. They introduced a new threat-level ranking system that now warns of a “significant and uncontrolled” level of Covid-19 cases.

“It feels like we’re going back to where we were several months ago,” said Umair Shah, a top public health official in Harris County, an area that includes Houston.

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