WEDNESDAY, May 20, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- All 50 states have started reopening their economies as of Wednesday, more than two months after the new coronavirus first forced America into lockdown.
Connecticut will be among the last states to return to business, when its stay-at-home order lifts and stores, museums and offices are allowed to reopen, The New York Times reported.
States in the Northeast and on the West Coast, as well as Democratic-led states in the Midwest, have moved more slowly toward reopening, the Times reported. But a number of states in the South opened earlier and more expansively, albeit with social distancing restrictions in place, the newspaper said.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a 60-page document that gave more detailed guidance for schools, businesses, transit systems and other industries hoping to reopen safely amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Times reported.
New data shows the number of new coronavirus cases in the country has begun to drop in recent days. Still, the U.S. case count now exceeds 1.5 million. More than 1,000 Americans died from COVID-19 almost every day this past week, as the U.S. death toll neared 92,000 on Wednesday, the Times reported..
According to the Times, in New York state case counts have dropped over the last month, and they have also plunged in hard-hit Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Some states, including Vermont, Hawaii and Alaska, are seeing hardly any new cases at all, the newspaper said.
"We're seeing a decline; undoubtedly, that is something good to see," Jeffrey Shaman, an epidemiologist at Columbia University, told the Times. "But what we are also seeing is a lot of places right on the edge of controlling the disease."
According to a Times tally, the top five states in coronavirus cases as of Wednesday are: New York with nearly 358,000; New Jersey with over 149,000; Illinois with over 98,000; Massachusetts with nearly 88,000; and California with nearly 84,000.
Testing issues continue
Of course, testing will be key to further efforts to control the spread of the new coronavirus. But only about 3% of the population has been tested.
Meanwhile, a survey from the Washington Post reveals another dilemma: Though tests for the virus are finally becoming widely available, too few people are lining up to get them.
The poll of governors' offices and state health departments found at least a dozen states where testing capacity outstrips the supply of patients.
Why aren't more people getting tested? "Well, that's the million-dollar question," Utah Health Department spokesman Tom Hudachko told the Post. "It could be simply that people don't want to be tested. It could be that people feel like they don't need to be tested. It could be that people are so mildly symptomatic that they're just not concerned that having a positive lab result would actually change their course in any meaningful way."
On the economic front, things look bleak. Statistics released last Thursday showed the coronavirus crisis has pushed almost 3 million more Americans into the ranks of the unemployed.
In the past eight weeks, a whopping 36 million Americans have lost their jobs as the country went into lockdown to try and slow the spread of COVID-19.
But a new report finds that hasn't stopped millions more Americans from venturing out in public.
From March 20, when states began urging people to stay home, to April 30, when many states started easing those restrictions, 43.8% of U.S. residents stayed home, a Times analysis showed.
But last week, only 36.1% of Americans stayed home. The biggest drop in share of people staying home was in Michigan, the analysis showed.
Serious illness in kids
Meanwhile, troubling news has emerged from New York City: More than 145 children have contracted a new, serious inflammatory syndrome that seems to be linked to COVID-19 infection, NBC New York reported.
The CDC has confirmed the link, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Monday. He said the city will work under the CDC's latest definition of what it now calls multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children.
"The CDC has confirmed a link to COVID-19. This is important, we assumed it, but they have done additional research to 100 percent confirm it and released a national standard definition," de Blasio told NBC New York.
The syndrome affects blood vessels and organs, and has symptoms similar to Kawasaki disease and toxic shock.
A small number of cases have been reported in other states, including New Jersey, California, Louisiana and Mississippi, the Times reported. At least 50 cases have been reported in European countries.
As New York City officials grappled with how to track and treat this new condition, an Italian study published in The Lancet medical journal described similar cases that cropped up in that country.
Between Feb. 18 and April 20, there were 10 cases of young children hospitalized with the inflammatory condition in the Lombardy region of northern Italy. In the five years leading up to the middle of February, only 19 children in that region had ever been diagnosed with the condition.
All 10 children survived, but they had more severe symptoms than those diagnosed with Kawasaki disease in the previous five years.
Across the country, reopening plans proceed, with all states relaxing social distancing measures by Memorial Day weekend, CNN reported. But polling shows that many Americans still oppose the reopening of restaurants, retail stores and other businesses.
A Washington Post-University of Maryland survey found that many Americans have been making trips to grocery stores and 56% say they are comfortable doing so. But 67% say they would be uncomfortable shopping at a retail clothing store, and 78% would be uncomfortable eating at a sit-down restaurant.
Nations grapple with pandemic
In Asia, where the coronavirus first struck, several countries are finally returning to a new normal.
In China, public officials are testing all 11 million residents in the city of Wuhan this week in the hopes they can extinguish any remaining cases of coronavirus in the pandemic's original epicenter, the Post reported
Meanwhile, South Korea began a phased reopening of schools on Wednesday, starting with the oldest students. Some 450,000 third-year students returned to their high schools under a set of strict social distancing guidelines, the Post reported.
Elsewhere, the situation remains challenging. On Wednesday, the United Kingdom's coronavirus death count neared 35,422, the second highest in the world, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally. Britain has now surpassed Italy, Spain and France for COVID-19 deaths in Europe.
Brazil looks like it might become the next hotspot in the coronavirus pandemic. By Wednesday, the South American country had reported nearly 18,000 deaths and nearly 272,000 confirmed infections, according to the Hopkins tally.
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump said he is considering a ban on all travel from Brazil, which recorded its highest single-day death toll on Tuesday and now has the third-highest numbers of cases in the world, the Post reported.
Cases are also spiking wildly in Russia: As of Wednesday, that country reported the world's second-highest number of COVID-19 cases, the Hopkins tally showed. Russia now has more than 308,700 cases. Only the United States has more cases.
Worldwide, the number of reported infections passed 4.9 million on Wednesday, with more than 323,500 deaths, according to the Hopkins tally.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on the new coronavirus.
SOURCES: Associated Press; The New York Times; Washington Post; CBS News; NBC News, The Lancet