Some states hit pause, others press on amid spike in coronavirus
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Utah and Oregon put any further reopenings of their economies on hold amid a spike in coronavirus cases, but there was no turning back Friday in such states as Texas, California, Arkansas and Arizona despite flashing warning signs there, too.
One by one, states are weighing the health risks from the virus against the economic damage from the stay-at-home orders that have thrown millions out of work over the past three months.
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And many governors are coming down on the side of jobs, even though an Associated Press analysis this week found that cases are rising in nearly half the states — a trend experts attributed in part to the gradual reopening of businesses over the past few weeks.
Texas, which set single-day highs for hospitalizations and new COVID-19 cases this week, gave the go-ahead for restaurants on Friday to expand eat-in dining to 75% capacity, up from 50%.
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Arkansas, where the number of cases has nearly doubled since Memorial Day and the number of people hospitalized is up more than 88%, will let restaurants seat more customers on Monday.
“Regardless of what we see in the next week, we made the right decision to go ahead and lift some of these restrictions so we don’t cause more damage to people’s lives and their livelihood,” Republican Gov. Asa Hutchison said.
Arizona has become one of the most troubling hot spots in the U.S. as new cases have surged to more than 1,000 a day, up from fewer than 400 before stay-at-home orders expired in mid-May. Republican Gov. Doug Ducey gave assurances the health care system can handle it.
Even California, the site nearly three months ago of the nation’s first statewide stay-at-home order, entered the most expansive phase of its gradual reopening Friday, even though its daily average of new cases is up by more than 600 from a week ago.
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Wineries in California started uncorking their bottles and welcoming people back to their tasting rooms, and hotels, zoos, museums and aquariums were also allowed to reopen. San Francisco restaurants resumed outdoor dining, and the San Diego Zoo opened on a limited basis.
So far, only a small number of governors have shown a willingness to retreat, or at least hit pause.
Republican Gov. Gary Herbert of Utah and Democratic Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon both said they would halt lifting further restrictions for the time being as new cases flare.
“As I've said before, reopening comes with real risk,” Brown said in announcing a one-week pause that will affect, among other places, Portland, the state's biggest city.
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She said the increase in positive test results was caused in part by the reopening of some counties. Oregon reported 178 new cases Thursday, the highest count since the outbreak began.
Elsewhere around the country, Iowa bars, restaurants, theaters and other businesses were allowed to pack in more customers. Swimming pools, senior centers and adult day care centers were also cleared to open back up. Iowa is still seeing hot spots, especially near meatpacking plants.
While President Donald Trump has pushed hard for states to reopen, the decision to charge ahead or go slow has not fallen neatly along partisan lines. California Gov. Gavin Newsom is a Democrat in the biggest blue state of them all.
In Texas, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott "is making pretty clear at this point he wants the economy to open," a worried Austin Mayor Steve Adler said. "My hope is that when he sees what kind of surge there's going to be, he does act at a state level."