States resist pandemic restrictions

As the United States goes through the deadliest phase of the coronavirus pandemic yet, governors and local officials in badly affected parts of the country show little willingness to impose new restrictions on businesses to contain the spread.

And, unlike in 2020, when the quarantine debate often divided parties, now both Democrats and Republicans are signaling their opposition to forced closures and other measures.

Some have expressed fear that the severe economic damage caused by the crisis will worsen. Others see little patience among the electorate to impose further restrictions 10 months after the crisis began. And a few more seem to be more focused on the distribution of vaccines, something that would eventually end the threat.

The most notable change in tone was that of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, who imposed a severe quarantine last spring, when the state became the epicenter of the outbreak in the United States.

We simply cannot stay closed until the vaccine reaches critical mass. The cost is too high. We won’t have anything left to open, Cuomo said this week when it was confirmed that infections in the state rose to an average of 16,000 a day and deaths reached about 170 a day.

Theaters remain closed and you can’t eat inside restaurants in New York City, but Cuomo said Tuesday that if a rapid virus testing system could be developed, it would allow those sectors to return more safely.

In Arizona, where the pandemic is wreaking havoc, Republican Gov. Doug Ducey has been adamant in his opposition to the mandatory use of a face mask at the state level or the closure of bars, gyms and restaurants, despite repeated requests from officials of the hospitals to take such measures.

If we are all in this together, then we have to understand that, for many families, quarantine does not mean inconvenience; it means catastrophe, Ducey said.

Governors in other hotspots, like Texas, have expressed similar views, while other states ease restrictions even as the death toll in the United States is close to 380,000 and cases exceed 22.7 million. The daily average of deaths at the national level is above 3,200.

Minnesota has allowed people to eat at restaurants again this week, and Michigan will do the same on Friday. Nevada’s rules expire Friday.

Even in states with stricter measures in place, like California, people flout the rules. On Monday, when intensive care units in Southern California were crammed with patients, people flocked to San Diego beaches to watch this week’s high surf, many less than 6 feet (1.8 meters) away. between them and without masks.

Other Americans have also ignored the rules. Tourists from the United States spent Christmas and New Years on the Caribbean coast of Mexico, while thousands of football fans from the University of Alabama packed bars Monday night to celebrate the national championship.

More than 9.3 million Americans have received the first dose of the vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a slow release for a campaign that will have to inoculate probably 85% of the population, or close to 300 million people, to defeat the virus.

On Tuesday, the administration of President Donald Trump announced plans to accelerate vaccination by distributing nearly double the number of vaccines, rather than keeping large quantities in reserve to ensure people get the second dose on time. The practice of storing doses was due to fears of production delays, but officials say they are now confident there will be supplies.

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Watson reported from San Diego. Associated Press journalists Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Zeke Miller in Washington; Jennifer Peltz in New York City and Marina Villeneuve in Albany, New York; Christopher Weber and John Antczak in Los Angeles; and Don Thompson in Sacramento, California, contributed to this report.

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