Some US states return to previous restrictions to slow surges of coronavirus cases

A public safety sign at Universal Orlando Resort stating safe social distancing, Photo Date: 6/4/2020
By Christina Maxouris, CNN

    (CNN) -- At least 12 states have hit a pause on their reopening plans as the United States sees a surge in coronavirus cases across the entire country.

With July 4 celebrations approaching, officials are trying not to repeat scenes from Memorial Day, when thousands across the country flocked to beaches, bars and parties while experts cautioned the crowds could lead to spikes in cases down the road.

In Texas and parts of California, bars were directed to close back down while beaches in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach were ordered off-limits to the public during the upcoming holiday weekend. In Florida, on-premises alcohol consumption was suspended in bars statewide.

The risk of keeping bars open is exemplified by a bar in East Lansing, Michigan, where 85 people contracted Covid-19 after visiting early this month.

The announcements come after a devastating week for the country, during which many states broke their records for new confirmed cases in a day and the US recorded a record high of single-day confirmed cases with 40,173 reported Friday.

But those numbers may just be a glimpse into how widespread infections across the country are, as a survey from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found the total numbers of infections could be up to 24 times higher than reported.

The pandemic has changed life everywhere, but no other country has seen as much illness and death as the United States. The US makes up about 4% of the world's population yet accounts for a quarter of the world's cases and deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

What happens next is unclear. Until a vaccine or treatment is widely available, public health experts have repeatedly pushed for mass efforts on behalf of the public good: social distancing, hand-washing, mask-wearing, testing, contract tracing and quarantining the sick.

Local and state leaders have vowed they'll do whatever it takes to stay away from a second shutdown. But many have stopped short of taking the option off the table.

Increase will 'get worse for weeks'

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar warned Sunday the window of time to get the pandemic under control is quickly closing.

Governors across the US have partially attributed their surges to more widespread testing -- but former CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden warned Sunday even with more testing and better prepared hospitals, "this virus still has the upper hand."

The increase in cases across the South is the result of reopening too fast, Frieden said on "Fox News Sunday," and "is going to continue to get worse for weeks."

And deaths will come too, he noted in a grim prediction that coronavirus fatalities will lag behind cases of infections by about a month.

Across the US, 31 states saw an increase in new coronavirus cases this past week compared to the week prior, primarily in the South and the West.

Another 15 states held steady this past week compared to the week prior, and just four states saw a decline: Connecticut, Delaware, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.

States halt reopening plans

At least 12 states have by now paused or rolled back plans to reopen, hoping the move will slow further spread of the virus.

In the past week, officials and state leaders have made repeated pleas to Americans to stay away from crowded spaces, keep their distance and try to stay at home as much as possible.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced the counties that were preparing to enter into the fourth phase of reopening -- with essentially no restrictions -- will not do so just yet.

"We all want to get back to doing all the things we love in Washington during the summer, and fully open our economy, but we aren't there yet," the governor said in a statement. "This is an evolving situation and we will continue to make decisions based on the data."

In Texas and Florida -- both of which have raised alarm among experts with a rapid rise in cases -- bars were ordered closed for a second time after officials suggested they were a driving force behind cases of coronavirus.

In a similar move, California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sunday ordered bars closed in seven counties: Los Angeles, Fresno, Imperial, Kern, Kings, San Joaquin, and Tulare. He recommended closing them in eight other counties as well.

Expert: masks may partially protect you from getting infected

As communities now again grapple with how to move forward, another question: what about masks?

White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx on Sunday pushed Americans to wear masks, saying that not only does evidence suggest masks "keep you from infecting others," but they "may also partially protect you from getting infected."

The government has mentioned the possibility before but has not made it a point of emphasis. The CDC says, "cloth face coverings are meant to protect other people in case the wearer is unknowingly infected but does not have symptoms."

Birx also encouraged young people to wear masks when they venture out, adding, "and if they're interacting with their parents and grandparents, they should wear a mask then too because we know now how many of them are asymptomatic."

Vice President Mike Pence recommended that people should wear masks when they cannot social distance. But he has refrained from requiring everyone to wear one and has instead deferred to local and state leaders, who are themselves following the lead of President Donald Trump, who has steadfastly refused to wear a mask in public.

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