State and local officials nationwide are imposing new coronavirus restrictions and pleading with the public in an increasingly desperate attempt to stop the explosive spread of the disease as many Americans resist calls to limit gatherings and travel heading into the holidays.
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak tightened restrictions on casinos, restaurants and private gatherings beginning Tuesday. In California, where most counties are under a curfew, Los Angeles County officials will prohibit in-person dining for at least three weeks, and a judge on Monday denied a request to temporarily restore indoor service at restaurants and gyms in San Diego County. Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts warned that he could impose tighter social-distancing restrictions before Thanksgiving if hospitalizations continue to rise.
Sisolak, who has avoided tightening mandates throughout the fall because of the potential damage to Nevada’s tourism-based economy, said the trends led to an “inescapable conclusion.”
“We are on a rapid trajectory that threatens to overwhelm our health care system, our front-line health workers and your access to care. So it’s time to act,” said Sisolak, who recently contracted COVID-19.
Around 83,000 people in the U.S. are hospitalized with COVID-19, according to the Covid Tracking Project. Infections have led to a shortage of hospital beds and health care workers, and they threaten non-COVID-19-related surgeries and other care.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis on Monday issued an executive order authorizing the state health department to order hospitals and emergency departments to transfer non-virus patients and to cease admitting new ones to deal with the influx of coronavirus cases.
In Washington state, elective procedures such as joint and heart valve replacements and some cancer surgeries could be postponed to make room for coronavirus patients, said Washington State Hospital Association CEO Cassie Sauer.
Adding to the stress: Some of the new restrictions are throwing people out of work again.
Economists worry that companies laying off workers will reverse the solid job gains since the spring and even push up the unemployment rate again.
In a troublesome sign, the number of Americans seeking unemployment aid rose last week for the first time in five weeks.
About 20 million Americans are now receiving some form of unemployment benefits, but about half will lose those benefits when two federal programs expire at the end of the year.
But the message from President-elect Joe Biden to local health officials is that the best way to get the economy back on track is to get the virus under control until a vaccine is widely available.
Despite pleas from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to skip Thanksgiving travel and not spend the holiday with people from outside their household, about 1 million people a day packed airports and planes over the weekend.
The crowds are expected to grow.
Even so, health officials are trying everything they can to slow the spread and address an even worse surge that many say is inevitable.