If People Are Staying Home, Why Is Coronavirus Still Spreading?
Most of the U.S. has been under stay-at-home orders for the last two months, but COVID-19 cases continue to grow by 2 to 4 percent each day.
Two months in to near-nationwide stay-at-home orders, Americans are ready to get back to their pre-pandemic lives. Those who are non-essential workers (and followed the rules) have been at home all day, every day, save for trips to the grocery store or for socially distant walks. And yet, the number of new cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. continues to go up each day, by about 2 to 4 percent.
While the number of new cases is decreasing in hard-hit areas like New York, Michigan and New Jersey, or small states like Hawaii, which is down to around just 1 new case a day, the numbers are spiking upwards in nearly half of the country, from Illinois to Texas to New Hampshire to Alabama.
There isn’t one single reason for the increases, but several, based on the way the U.S. shut down (or didn’t), the current push to reopen and the nature of the virus itself.
While many Americans are able to stay home, essential workers are still heading in each day, to hospitals, nursing homes, supermarkets and factories — all places where they can come in contact with people with COVID-19.
Nursing homes, in particular, are dealing with large outbreaks of the virus. At least 10,000 deaths in the U.S. have been linked to nursing homes, where the older residents are highly susceptible to COVID-19, and workers are often surrounded by sick patients. One nursing home in New Jersey was so overwhelmed by the number of patient deaths that police found 17 bodies stacked in the facility’s morgue.
In the Midwest, several meat processing factories are dealing with large outbreaks among their workers that only began in the last few weeks. At a Tyson Foods meat factory in Perry, Iowa, 58 percent of the workers have tested positive for COVID-19, NBC News reported. Tyson, and several Smithfield meat factories, have had to temporarily close or slow down production as workers have gotten sick, leading to meat shortages nationwide.
Additionally, many of these essential workers are making minimum wage and can’t afford to stay home and quarantine, even if they get COVID-19.
“They are afraid of losing their jobs,” J. Luis Nunez Gallegos, an assistant medical director at a health center in Washington, D.C., told The Washington Post. “They are anxious their employers won’t respect the quarantine, or that two weeks seems too long, and they don’t always have the savings to get by.”
And as these essential workers continue to go to work, they also risk bringing COVID-19 home to their families and spreading the virus further.
The Push to Reopen
Now, with the economy struggling, many governors are starting to slowly lift stay-at-home orders in their states and allow non-essential businesses, such as hair salons, retail stores and gyms, to reopen. This is happening despite warnings from health experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci who warn that reopening too soon could cause another spike in cases, and polls showing that most Americans are against easing restrictions.
Several states that have begun to reopen are now seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases, The New York Times reported. Indiana, Kansas and Nebraska all eased restrictions on Monday despite spiking numbers, along with Iowa, Minnesota, Tennessee and Texas.
And while the White House was able to announce in mid-April that the projected number of deaths had decreased from 100,000 to 60,000 by the end of August, those estimates have now gone back up, and deaths are estimated to hit 100,000 by June. As of Wednesday morning, more than 71,000 people have died.
The Virus Persists
Another issue is the messaging — when social distancing was first emphasized in mid-March as a way to “flatten the curve” and limit the spread of COVID-19, it wasn’t a way to eliminate the virus completely, as people may have believed.
What social distancing actually does is slow down virus transmission to a level that is manageable for hospital workers and enables them to have enough hospital beds, masks and equipment to properly treat COVID-19 patients.
While the virus will eventually slow down in areas that are adhering to social distancing and other safety precautions, “there will be some places where it’s still circulating, so it never really leaves,” Dr. Robert Norton, a professor of public health at Auburn University and member of several coronavirus task forces, previously told PEOPLE.
Unfortunately, the virus will likely continue to persist until a vaccine is ready, in about 12 to 18 months at the earliest.
The information in this story is accurate as of press time. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, it's possible that some data have changed since publication. While Health is trying to keep our stories as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations for their own communities by using the CDC, WHO, and their local public health department as resources.
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This Story Originally Appeared On people