Covid-19: US states reopening slowly amid hope and despair

City Life

Americans are grappling with the question whether it is sensible to reopen the economies.

By Revathi Siva Kumar

From East to West Coast, states torn between keeping pandemic toll down and reviving economy.

Even as the United States is slowly reopening and struggling to bring back some normalcy amid a raging coronavirus pandemic, mixed signals are emerging from various states between hope and despair?

To look at the good news first, there is some promise from industries that are likely to get back on rails, including those from the goods producing sectors, construction, housing, real estate, manufacturing and supply chains.

As these companies don’t require too much of human physical contact, they are expected to get back into action, provided the personnel keep distant and do not touch or breathe down each other’s necks.

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As the economic reopening of states is not going to stop, experts wonder whether there can be damage control if they follow the necessary guidelines.

After all, there is consensus that wearing masks, washing hands frequently and relentlessly testing for infection, such as through nasal and throat swabs, is important.

The systems are swinging into action to keep the virus at bay. Tests for antibodies are pointing the way towards a healthier life.

Americans are lining up for medicines to build up stronger immune systems, perhaps opening paths back to normal life. It is believed that more people might be carrying antibodies than was believed.

RELATED: Covid-19: From India to America, nations racing to find vaccine (May 11, 2020)

Even if a second wave of infection hits the nation, optimists believe that tests would have been discovered and ramped up by then.

As human settlements and workplaces are beginning to shift and reform with safer designs, scientists are working furiously towards discovering some modest and effective vaccines as well as antiviral treatments.

On the other end of the spectrum is the worst case scenario — the fear that many states have not stood up to the bare minimum criteria or standards for safety and security.

With US death toll surpassing 85,000, over 40 percent higher than 60,000, the number that was once touted to be reached by August. President Ronald Trump now speaks of a toll that may touch or cross 100,000.

READ: Covid-19: Indian American Manka Dhingra named to Washington state recovery committee (May 8, 2020)

Even as the weather has started playing foul, citizens are not conforming to social distancing at the required six feet needed at crowded beaches or malls.

There might be deadly, silent carriers of the virus moving among the crowds, who are infecting everyone around them.

While health systems in America appear to be pretty sound and strong, the testing rate is much below the desired rate.

The US is conducting just over one million tests per week, which is about one-half to one-third of what is needed.

Even those who are infected might not make them apparent immediately as people who have contracted viruses might take two to three weeks to show symptoms and become hospitalized.

READ: Covid-19: Indian American led study indicates efficacy of new drug (April 30, 2020)

The country might unknowingly even settle down into a placid period for a fortnight, making citizens complacent and letting their guard down.

It would be disastrous if citizens are not careful. But it’s becoming clear that people are getting impatient and are throwing caution to the winds, increasingly interacting with others.

Earlier deserted ghost towns are filling up with people and traffic. Viruses are gleefully riding on human interactions and surviving on coughs, human touches and inert surfaces.

Most cases are viewed within families, or among workers who are openly exposed to risks on the job. There have also been hundreds of hot spots in meat and poultry plants. Although factories are taking precautions, they do not seem to be working too well.

READ: Covid-19: USCIS preparing to reopen on June 4 (April 28, 2020)

While many citizens refuse to wear masks when they move out of dense states such as New York or California, there aren’t enough directives from the higher-ups that tell them to follow health guidelines.

Some of the lockdowns are even becoming political, as opponents call them violative of people’s liberties.

Hence, in the worst case scenario, the medical experts do not foresee any improvement in the cases but only a steady rise with a “second wave of infection”.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the White House task force’s chief medical adviser, is worried about cases spiking in closed environments, such as medical homes and factories.

READ: Michael Kugelman: Covid will have a bigger impact on world order than anything else since end of Cold War  (April 20, 2020)

Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made a telling comment suggesting the reopening is not based on science but on “politics, ideology and public pressure”. He warned that “it’s going to end badly”.

Some epidemiological models have even predicted that the final death toll might be closer to 240,000 that the White House’s coronavirus task force foresaw in March, before it shifted to more hopeful projections.

Given the two scenarios, would it be sensible now to reopen the states? Even if an economic revival is crucial, experts are clear that it would work only if a plan is carefully strategized and the reopening is gradual and monitored at every stage.

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