The red flags are being raised as state governors are trying to mitigate the outbreak of a new wave of the coronavirus in their states. This morning’s edition of NBC’s Meet the Press was chock full of doom and gloom with some ominous promises of future action by the incoming Biden administration mixed in. Joe Biden’s Chief of Staff, Ron Klain, even confirmed that when Sleepy Joe takes over, he will issue a national mask mandate. Looks like that little bit of overreach by the federal government is back on the table, though we were told last week that Biden realizes he doesn’t really have that authority.
Dr. Michael Osterholm, Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, and a member of Biden’s group of advisers on the coronavirus was walking a fine line between trying to alarm the audience enough to pay attention to his concerns and also walking back his previous recommendation that Biden should shut down the country for 4-6 weeks and compensate everyone with taxpayer money. “Our future is in our hands,” he began. He went on to say that in the next three weeks the numbers are going to go “up and up”. This is “the most dangerous public health period since 1918.” On a new national lockdown, he said a standardized approach must come from the White House to get us through until next summer when a vaccine will be available to most people. Naturally, he took the opportunity to trash the Trump administration by saying, “There is no national leadership on this issue now.” I’ll note that Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson was the next guest up on the show and he mentioned that it was an insult for Osterholm to state that there is no national leadership on the virus now. As a matter of fact, he is participating in a White House coronavirus task force meeting on Monday.
For the first time, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum has issued a statewide order on the use of face masks. Up until the announcement on Friday night, he resisted making such a move but the rapid rise in the outbreak in the state has led him to this decision. The Minot, North Dakota area has seen more cases per capita in this upsurge than anywhere in the country.
North Dakota’s Republican Gov. Doug Burgum announced late Friday night that “the State Health Officer, with my full support, has issued an order requiring face coverings to be worn in all indoor businesses and public settings and outdoor public settings where physical distancing isn’t possible.”
The order will remain effective until Dec. 13.
In addition, all bars and restaurants in North Dakota will be required starting Monday to close at 10p.m. and operate at 50 percent capacity, as long as that does noot exceed 150 people. All banquet, ballroom and event venues will be limited to 25 percent of maximum occupancy, and school winter sports and extracurricular activities will be suspended.
“To be clear, these are statewide requirements, not simply recommendations,” said Burgum.
The number of hospitalizations is being closely watched as the number of active positive cases in North Dakota has doubled since Oct. 20 to nearly 10,500. The state’s health care system is already strained. Governor Burgum said that the coronavirus has killed at least 700 people in North Dakota. The state’s 14-day average positive test rate doubled to 15.6 percent in the last month. Minot is a city of 47,000 that is known for its Air Force base. Schools are in session, in person, and indoor dining is allowed but limited.
Other areas in the country are showing troubling numbers.
Wisconsin’s outbreak has escalated more rapidly than those in other states. The county that includes Los Angeles has reported more COVID-19 cases since the pandemic’s start than anywhere else. Texas has the most cases of any state, and the most cases reported on college campuses.
The list of deeply troubled locations — each with its own, different gauge of the problem — goes on and on. If anything, the sheer number of hot spots comes as a reminder of how widespread this outbreak has grown.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown who has allowed riots and looting in the streets of her state to continue is now calling for a two-week “freeze” starting Wednesday. Businesses are to close to the public and workers must work from home “to the greatest extent possible.” Violators could face fines or arrest. I wonder what might have happened if she had been so resolute about the Summer of Love violence in the streets of Portland.
“For the last eight months, I have been asking Oregonians to follow to the letter and the spirit of the law, and we have not chosen to engage law enforcement,” Brown said. “At this point in time, unfortunately, we have no other option.”
While most Oregon stores will remain open, gyms, museums, pools, movie theaters and zoos will be forced to close, and restaurants and bars will be limited to takeout. Social gatherings will be restricted to six people.
Oregon has seen a 93.4 percent increase in cases over the past two weeks, with an average of nearly 900 new cases daily in the last nine days. Since the start of the pandemic, almost 55,000 Oregonians have been infected at least 753 have died.
New Mexico is also shutting down for two weeks because of an increase in cases and deaths.
In New Mexico, Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham put a two-week stay-at-home order in place starting Monday. New Mexicans can only go out for essential trips. Essential businesses may operate in a limited capacity and nonessential businesses have to cease all “in-person workforce and activities,” the governor said.
“We are in a life-or-death situation, and if we don’t act right now, we cannot preserve the lives, we can’t keep saving lives, and we will absolutely crush our current health care system and infrastructure,” said Lujan Grisham.
New Mexico has seen a nearly 59 percent increase in cases over the past two weeks and an uptick in deaths. The virus has killed nearly 1,200 people in the state and infected 62,006.
Governors in five northeastern states, including New York and New Jersey, are meeting – an “emergency summit” – to determine additional steps to take in their states. It is encouraging that Team Biden is trying to walk back the possibility of a nationwide lockdown now that there has been pushback against that kind of extreme action. His coronavirus team now likes to say their idea of mitigation is like that of a dimmer switch instead of an on-off switch with the national economy.