The number of infections — which stood at more than 557,000 on Monday morning — were also down Saturday and Sunday. This comes as US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams says cases in some of the country’s hotspots — New York, New Jersey, Detroit and New Orleans — appear to be “leveling off” or even declining. The situations in California and Washington, meanwhile, remain stable.
Still, many states are in the throes of an intense effort to stem the illness’ spread and save lives. New York crossed the 10,000-death threshold Monday, as its cases topped 190,000, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. New Jersey and Michigan also have frightening death tolls, with more than 2,300 and 1,400 respectively.
The upside to New York’s numbers is that the three-day average for hospitalization, new hospitalizations, intensive care admissions and intubations are all down, Cuomo said Monday morning.
Doctors in wait-and-see mode
All 50 states are under a federal disaster declaration for the first time in US history. There are more than 29,000 members of the National Guard deployed across the country to deal with the pandemic, according to the National Guard Bureau. Guardsmen have been called to serve a variety of roles, from staffing emergency operations centers to restocking grocery shelves.
Key to how optimistic Americans should be will depend on what comes next. The country’s testing trajectory will be hugely important, experts say.
While President Donald Trump says he wants to reopen the country next month — even telling state governments to “be ready” as he plans to announce a special council to reopen the country — health officials say they’re still in wait-and-see mode even if the numbers look promising.
“It’s important to look at the country as many different separate situations,” said Dr. Robert Redfield, director of US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on NBC’s “Today” show.
“This pandemic has affected different parts of the country differently,” Redfield said. “We’re looking at the data very carefully, county by county by county, and we will be assessing that.”
Public health capabilities need to be improved to perform early case detection, isolation and contact tracing, he said, and officials need to “start working to rebuild confidence in the community, so the community has confidence to reopen.”
Testing and social distancing
The US is “nearing the peak right now,” Redfield told the morning show.
“You’ll know when you’re at the peak when the next day is less than the day before,” he said. “We are stabilizing across the country in terms of the state of this outbreak.”
As for getting the country back to normal, Redfield said it has to be done correctly and “it’s going to be a step-by-step, gradual process.”
The call for caution is being echoed on the world stage as World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus asked people to remember the virus accelerates faster than it decelerates, so “control measures can only be lifted if the right public health measures are in place.”
Redfield concurred with Adams that social distancing is working — and said the potential death toll “while sadly too high, was far less than we anticipated” — but said relaxing those guidelines would need to be done carefully.
Testing is still not widely available, and many states have still tested only small percentages of their populations.
Antibody tests, which reveal past coronavirus infection — an especially important test for health care workers — will “give us a good idea from a surveillance point of view of how significant the outbreak was.”
Weather adds to social distancing stress
A majority of the storms were across the South and East Coast, according to the National Weather Service, with at least 34 tornadoes reported in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Georgia as of early Monday. At least 18 people died.
Forecast models show the worst of the weather sweeping up the eastern portions of Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia, but even as far north as New York, officials were urging caution.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told residents the best protection from the weather is to continue to practice social distancing.
Leaders square off on school closures
De Blasio announced Saturday that public schools would remain closed for the rest of the academic year. A few hours later, Cuomo — who has said businesses and schools should open at the same time because schools double as child care — says no decision has been made yet.
Cuomo understands the mayor’s stance, he said, and it’s “not an unreasonable position,” but the governor’s office has to worry about other counties and neighboring states when making decisions.
The state and local governments agree on “the vast majority of issues,” de Blasio said Monday, but the schools must remain closed. He’s consulted with health care leaders, educators and their union, and there is no foreseeable situation in which the schools could open before summer, he said.
“I’m telling you: The schools are not going to open because it won’t be safe,” the mayor said. “The only way we can help make sure that we actually get out of this horrible phase of the disease is to keep our schools closed. … I literally don’t hear any voice saying we need to open these schools in the middle of so much insecurity.”
De Blasio also mandated that beginning Monday, all city workers who come in contact with the public while on duty are to wear face coverings.
CNN’s Kevin Liptak, Gisela Crespo, Amanda Watts and Elizabeth Joseph contributed to this report.