Some states get a taste of normalcy but others take 'whatever steps necessary' to slow coronavirus spread
Posted April 24, 2020 2:39 a.m. EDT
Updated April 24, 2020 10:00 p.m. EDT
CNN — A few states are relaxing restrictions aimed to slow down the coronavirus pandemic but many governors say they are not ready to reopen.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said he will "take whatever steps necessary" to protect residents after local leaders in Weld County said all businesses will be allowed to reopen by Monday with only suggested social distancing guidelines.
"If any county is not treating this like the emergency that it is, they risk losing emergency funds," Polis told reporters when asked about Weld County, which is considered one of the virus' hot spots in the state.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has supported reopening efforts, told reporters on Friday that he was "not concerned about specific dates as much as I'm concerned about getting it right."
While the majority of states continue weighing when to lift or ease restrictions in place since the pandemic hit the United States, some states had a taste of normalcy.
Hair stylists and barbers in Georgia wore masks and gloves when people arrived for trims and hair colors. Those businesses, along with gyms, tattoo parlors and other nonessential businesses, reopened Friday with some guidelines for social distancing.
Some businesses offering personal care services reopened in Oklahoma and Alaska and retail stores in Texas began to sell through curbside and delivery.
The Good Records store reopened Friday in Dallas, Texas -- but the only employee was the owner, Chris Penn.
"I've got a little trepidation. We might be rushing things in general to save the economy, which is already going to be hurting," Penn told CNN. "But for me, I feel OK because I'm a one-man operation now, and I'm being hypervigilant about sanitation and wiping records down."
But some business owners and customers are still uncertain of the move.
Ian Winslade, a chef and owner of a restaurant in Atlanta, said his establishment will stay closed for now.
"I don't understand whether or not the public will have confidence to meet with us," he told CNN Friday.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who opposes the decision by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp to ease restrictions, said she hopes many people still will stay home but suspects some won't.
"They will go into hair salons and go and get manicures and pedicures as if it is business as usual, and then in a couple of weeks, we will see our numbers continue to rise in this state," Bottoms told CNN Friday.
Hundreds of thousands of business owners and residents will face similar decisions next week when other states, including Colorado, Minnesota, Montana and Tennessee, ease restrictions in varying degrees.
The pandemic has taken at least 51,017 lives in the US, according to tallies collected by Johns Hopkins University, and it's far from over. The World Health Organization said it will be "weeks to months" before the world knows what drugs can work against the virus.
The easing generally runs against the advice of experts who point to a University of Washington model, often cited by the White House, suggesting no state should reopen their economies before May 1, and that many states should wait even longer.
CDC and states reject Trump's suggestion to use disinfectants
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state officials and even private companies are urging people to not inject or infest disinfectants after President Donald Trump suggested it Thursday as a possible treatment for Covid-19.
"Household cleaners and disinfectants can cause health problems when not used properly. Follow the instructions on the product label to ensure safe and effective use," the CDC tweeted on Friday.
CNN has reached out to the CDC for clarification on what prompted the tweet.
In Maryland, an emergency alert was sent out after officials received more than 100 calls with questions about whether consuming disinfectant was a possible treatment for the virus, Mike Ricci, a spokesman for the governor's office tweeted.
Authorities in other states, including New Jersey, California and Illinois issued similar warnings on Friday, saying there's no scientific evidence indicating that it's safe to do so.
"It's dangerous," Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker told reporters on Friday. "You know, all I can say is I hope to God that nobody listened to him yesterday."
Reckitt Benckiser Group, the maker of Lysol and Dettol, announced on its website that "under no circumstance" its cleaning products should be administered into the human body.
Coronavirus was spreading earlier than thought, research and deaths show
New research and two February deaths confirmed as virus-related add to evidence that the novel coronavirus was spreading in the US much earlier than experts initially thought.
The developments suggest many more people have been infected than official tallies show, and that the fatality rate from the virus may be lower than it seemed, public health experts say.
The February 6 death of 57-year-old Patricia Dowd in Northern California is now the earliest known death in the country from the virus and shows the illness was circulating weeks before, a Santa Clara County official told CNN. The county announced the February 17 death of a 69-year-old man and the March 6 death of a third victim were also virus-related.
Dr. Sara Cody, the county's public health director, said the victims likely would have been exposed to the virus two to three weeks prior to their deaths. Since none of them had a recent travel history, she said they likely were exposed in that community.
But at the time, officials had reassured the public the risk of catching the virus was low. The three victims had not gotten tested for the virus because testing was very limited, the county said, restricted mainly to people with a related travel history.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom has asked coroners across the state to review cases dating back to December to determine whether they were also coronavirus related.
Researchers from Boston's Northeastern University have come to a similar conclusion. They suggest the virus was being transmitted throughout American communities earlier than late February.
The model suggests that by March 1, the median number of infected people in major US cities such as New York, San Francisco and Seattle had reached 28,000.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday that results of a study conducted on 3,000 New Yorkers show the virus spread in the region much earlier than previously thought.
About 14% of the state's residents have antibodies, Cuomo said. Antibodies help show who may have previously had the virus and developed the antibodies as a result.
But the results may also be a point of reassurance. When the understood number of people infected is raised, the mortality rate may drop, said Dr. Carlos Del Rio, executive associate dean of Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta.
A higher-than-understood number of infections indicates that more people may have been developing some immunity, said Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins University.
The World Health Organization is tracking multiple studies across the world trying to determine how many people have been infected by the virus globally, according to Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, the technical lead for the coronavirus response with the agency.
What the WHO is seeing, Van Kerkhove said, is that the number of people with antibodies globally ranges between 2 to 3%, and up to 14%, according to one study in Germany.
'Weeks to months' away from effective treatment
The agency is also tracking hundreds of drug trials, looking for a treatment that can help infected patients recover.
But the world is "weeks to months" from knowing what works, Van Kerkhove said.
Other experts warned Friday that coronavirus antibodies would not be a license to stop physical distancing -- partly because not enough is known about whether or to what extent the antibodies offer immunity.
"We do not know whether or not patients who have these antibodies are still at risk of reinfection with Covid-19," Dr. Mary Hayden, spokeswoman for Infectious Diseases Society of America and chief of Rush University Medical Center's infectious diseases division, said Friday.
"We don't know even if the antibodies are protective, (or) what degree of protection they provide. So, it could be complete, it could be partial, or (for) how long the antibodies last," Hayden said, adding: "We know that antibody responses wane over time."
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct the age of the man who died February 17. He was 69.