Is the pandemic over? No, but many states across the nation are either opening fully or relaxing restrictions so that life can return to something resembling normalcy – and not the new normal. Texas recently hit the media waves after Gov. Greg Abbott said, “It is now time to open Texas 100 percent.” But some states have already been practicing relaxed measures for a while now, and not all experts are thrilled with the idea, warning of a possible fourth coronavirus surge.
Opening businesses and allowing children to return to school have been the biggest challenges and contested issues with the virus closures. While students have been going back to in-classroom learning, albeit on a much smaller scale, the COVID fears have sparked rebellions and refusals from teachers concerned about catching and spreading the illness. Chicago, IL recently reopened its schools and playgrounds while teachers in some cities in Washington are refusing to return to in-person teaching despite the government’s policy to reopen. Nearly all of Kentucky has allowed children to go back to school, and in Florida and South Dakota, schools – as well as businesses – have been open for months.
Back to Business
Restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues seem to have suffered the most this past year, with months of closures and constrained business. For the first time since last March, North Carolina has allowed its bars to open with a limited capacity, and South Carolina has ended the 11 p.m. curfew for restaurants to close. In Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, announced an ease of restrictions on businesses while also allowing families to visit loved ones in nursing homes as long as they have tested negative for the virus.
Across the country, most businesses have been allowed to open, at least partially. California, Oregon, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado are considered “mixed,” according to The New York Times, suggesting there are still plenty of restrictions in those areas. Thirteen states (as of the time of this writing) have not only opened most businesses, but they have also removed mask requirements. These include Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas.
While Virginia has allowed most of its businesses to at least partially open, it still requires face masks and is the only state currently to have a curfew still in place. California, New Mexico, Wisconsin, and Kentucky have stay-at-home advisories.
The number of coronavirus cases documented each day is still more than 65,000 nationwide with an average of 2,000 deaths per day attributed to the virus. While the numbers are lower than the high peaks of the pandemic and millions of people have already received the vaccination, some experts argue that it’s too soon to be relaxing so much.
Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said, “Rather than opening a few lower-risk things and seeing just to make sure it doesn’t change the numbers, it just feels like they’re just kind of opening the floodgates.”
“I know people are tired; they want to get back to life, to normal,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. “But we’re not there yet.”
The initial two-week closure to get ahead of the curve didn’t work, and now – 52 weeks later – many question the validity of the COVID restrictions and mandates.
Read more from Kelli Ballard.
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