More than half of the country goes into first weekend with loosened coronavirus restrictions


Denise Gravitt, top cuts the hair of client Lisa Murray, bottom, at her salon, Beehive Salon, Friday, May 1, 2020, in Edmond, Okla., the first day hair salons have been allowed to reopen in Edmond following shutdowns due to coronavirus concerns. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

(CNN) — For the first time in weeks, residents in some states across the country can dabble in semblances of some weekend routines after governors began easing restrictions put in place to combat the novel coronavirus.

That might mean going to a movie in Georgia, working out with a personal trainer in Colorado or dropping by a dispensary in Nevada — with restrictions for spacing and sanitation.

More than 30 states have begun easing social distancing restrictions — ranging from opening state parks to allowing some businesses to restart.

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

Other states and counties will ease restrictions starting Monday. Gyms and fitness centers will reopen in Arkansas on May 4, while hair salons will follow May 6. In Northern California’s Yuba and Sutter counties, restaurants, tattoo parlors and shopping malls will be allowed to open Monday, which will also be the first workday for many offices in Colorado, with operations limited to 50% capacity.

In Montana, bars and breweries will also be allowed to provide some in-establishment services starting Monday. According to current plans, more than 40 states will have eased restrictions by May 10.

The changes come even as experts warn that lifting measures now could be deadly.

“You’re making a big mistake. It’s going to cost lives,” Dr. Irwin Redlener, a pediatrician and disaster preparedness specialist at Columbia University Medical Center, told CNN Friday.

In a report, Redlener and Joseph Fair, a senior fellow in pandemic policy at Texas A&M University, said no city or state should begin to reduce restrictions until coronavirus infections have been steadily decreasing for 10 days to two weeks, and not until enough tests are available to track just how many people really are infected.

“We implore you to do everything in your power to make sure we have the testing and contact tracing we need to move forward safely. Until we get there, it is inappropriate and dangerous to reopen local businesses,” Redlener wrote in a letter accompanying the report.

But the country continues to lag behind in testing and months since the beginning of the outbreak is still unable to perform the millions of tests that economists and public heath experts said last month will be required before measures can be safely lifted.

This is where all 50 states stand on reopening

CDC: Summer will be critical in fight against virus

How the country fares in the next few months will be “critical” in the fight against coronavirus and how it will evolve in the fall, Dr. Anne Schuchat, the principal deputy director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.

“The more we intensify the testing and expand the public health capacity and assure that our hospital capacity and material to support the hospitals is adequate or has excess, the better we’re going to be in the fall,” Schuchat said in an interview with JAMA Network.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease doctor, this week said he believes a second round of the virus is “inevitable” and how deadly that round is will be determined by how prepared the US is.

“If by that time we have put into place all of the countermeasures that you need to address this, we should do reasonably well,” he said. “If we don’t do that successfully, we could be in for a bad fall and a bad winter.”

Fauci has also 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.”

Your coronavirus questions, answered

Protest over orders leads to more than two dozen arrests

Many governors have faced resistance in the recent weeks from residents who want lockdown measures lifted and businesses reopened.

In California, more than 30 people were arrested Friday during a demonstration at the state capitol building to protest Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order, CNN affiliate KCRA reported.

More than 1,000 people had gathered, some waving American flags and signs against the order.

“This disease doesn’t know if you’re a protester, a Democrat, a Republican,” the governor said Friday. “Protect yourself, protect your family, your kids, your parents, your grandparents, your neighbors.”

“I appreciate expression, points of view,” Newsom said, “but we’re interested in evidence, and the evidence shows some good things, but some yellow flags of caution.”

Newsom said the state is “days, not weeks” away from beginning to lift restrictions.

“I just want folks to know that we are getting very close to making really meaningful augmentations to that stay-at-home order,” the governor said in his daily coronavirus briefing.

Up to 3,000 people also gathered in Huntington Beach Friday to protest Newsom’s order this week to close all Orange County beaches.

The governor issued the order after scolding beachgoers that packed some shores in the state during scorching temperatures last weekend.

FDA approves remdesivir

Meanwhile, the US Food and Drug Administration approved the experimental drug remdesivir as treatment for hospitalized patients with severe coronavirus, the agency said Friday.

This 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.

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

Here’s what else happened this week:

• A model often cited by the White House upped its predictions for the US death toll by August, partially because of measures lifted prematurely.

• States across the US have called for more antibody tests to be done, while others have begun hiring contact tracers to get a glimpse into how widespread the virus has been.

• The CDC said international travel and lack of testing fueled spread of the virus in the early days of US outbreak.

• Experts say the virus is likely to keep spreading for up to two more years — until 60 to 70% of the population has been infected.


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