Lockdowns May Return As Crowds Gather and Case Counts Climb

Sunday in Central Park. Photo: Stephen Ferry/VIEWpress/Corbis via Getty Images

Governor Cuomo has had it up to here with New Yorkers flouting social-distancing rules. On Sunday, after a weekend that saw dense, unmasked crowds in St. Mark’s Place and the Upper East Side, among other places, Cuomo threatened to reverse reopening plans in places where the rules are not followed.

“I understand it’s not popular. Nobody wants to go to a sidewalk with people drinking and say, ‘You people can’t drink on the sidewalk,’” he said. “You know what’s more unpopular? If that region closes because that local government did not do their job.”

Cuomo said the state has received 25,000 complaints about reopening violations, most of them in Manhattan and the Hamptons. “Lots of violations of social distancing, parties in the street, restaurants and bars ignoring laws,” Cuomo tweeted. “Enforce the law or there will be state action.”

He’s hardly the only one hinting at the reinstatement of quarantine as a second wave of the coronavirus pops up in states around the country. In Houston, local officials say the city of 5 million may be approaching “the precipice of a disaster” and have suggested a return to lockdown, though the decision has to come from the governor. Other places are simply pausing reopening plans as they assess surges in cases. That’s happened in Oregon, Utah, and Nashville.

On Friday, the CDC’s deputy director for infectious diseases Jay Butler floated the idea of local lockdown orders in places where cases are spiking. “If cases begin to go up again, particularly if they go up dramatically, it’s important to recognize that more mitigation efforts such as what were implemented back in March may be needed again,” he said.

The U.S. passed 2 million total coronavirus cases last week, reaching the mark just six weeks after it hit 1 million. According to Reuters, “Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, North Carolina, Oklahoma and South Carolina all had record numbers of new cases” in the past week.

Columbia University virologist Dr. Angela Rasmussen wrote on Twitter Monday that Arizona, Alabama, North Carolina, and South Carolina need to go back on lockdown “like NOW.”

“At least 4 states are going to need to reinstitute stay-home orders this week–like NOW–to stop upward case trajectories,” she wrote. “This pandemic is still going on. We failed to use the time we bought to prepare & build capacity. We reopened before we were ready. Now we pay.”

Expanded testing is partly responsible for the surge in cases, but testing alone can’t explain the apparent second wave currently taking shape across the country. In states such as North Carolina and Texas, the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 is also growing.

Still, Governor Greg Abbott said Friday he sees “no real need to ratchet back the opening of businesses in the state” because hospital capacity in the state remains high.

Governments outside the U.S. appear less reluctant to reinstate lockdown measures as new cases begin to crop up. In Beijing, authorities have imposed “wartime” measures on people who live near a wholesale food market at the center of a new cluster of COVID-19 cases. And Chennai, an Indian city of 7 million, is locking down until the end of June as the rest of the country reopens.

Lockdowns May Return As Crowds Gather and Case Counts Climb