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Health Team

Warmer weather and debate over restrictions drive Americans outside while coronavirus cases rise

Posted May 3, 2020 4:01 a.m. EDT
Updated May 3, 2020 10:36 a.m. EDT

Warmer weather and debate over restrictions drive Americans outside while coronavirus cases rise

— From California to New York, more Americans are headed outside -- some for recreation and others in protest.

But as some states loosen or let go of their stay-at-home orders, researchers predict a higher death toll from coronavirus this summer than previously expected.

By Sunday morning, more than 1.1 million people in the US have been infected with coronavirus, and more than 66,000 have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

States such as California have stood firm on their stay-at-home orders -- and have been met with protests.

But more than 30 states have started easing some social distancing restrictions -- ranging from simply opening state parks to allowing certain businesses to restart.

Some of those states let stay-at-home orders expire, with caveats restricting what businesses can open and how. Georgia, for example, still requires the elderly to stay home until June 12.

Other states and counties will ease restrictions this week. In Arkansas, gyms and fitness centers can reopen Monday, and hair salons can open Wednesday.

In Northern California's Yuba and Sutter counties, restaurants, tattoo parlors and shopping malls will be allowed to open Monday.

Many offices in Colorado will also be allowed to open Monday, though they'll be limited to 50% capacity.

Elsewhere, residents of New York City and Washington DC, many of whom appeared to be observing social distancing rules, are enjoying warmer weather in parks and open spaces this weekend.

Many Pennsylvania and New Jersey residents were able to take advantage of some state parks, forest facilities and golf courses for the first time this spring.

Fauci: Lifting measures too early could backfire

Some states haven't met the White House's recommended guidelines for reopening. Among the guidelines for "Opening Up America Again," states shouldn't start to reopen until they have a downward trajectory of documented cases in a 14-day period.

Now, some health experts say reopening too soon will backfire. A coronavirus projection model often cited by the White House increased its prediction for the US death toll by August, partially because of measures lifted prematurely.

And how deadly an "inevitable" second round of this virus will be depends on how prepared the US is, White House Coronavirus Task Force member Dr. Anthony Fauci said.

Fauci warned that lifting measures prematurely could lead to a rebound of the virus that could put the US in the "same boat that we were a few weeks ago."

Experimental drug approved

But there is hope the nation will be armed with a new tool for the predicted second wave.

The US Food and Drug Administration approved the experimental drug remdesivir as treatment for hospitalized patients with severe coronavirus.

In an emergency-use authorization Friday, the agency said the benefits of using the drug outweighed the risks.

Remdesivir is the first authorized therapy for the virus in the country, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said.

"This is an important clinical advance that showed a statistically significant reduction in time to recovery for patients with Covid-19 and is the first authorized therapy for Covid-19." Hahn said.

The drug was approved just days after researchers said it might help patients recover more quickly from the infection.

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