Yes, the spring shutdowns were brutal and painful. But they helped stop hospitals from overflowing and drove down Covid-19 infection rates, saving countless lives in the process.
Then states reopened – sometimes very quickly. Many people got a false sense of security, rejecting personal responsibility and going out without masks.
New infections, hospitalizations and deaths soared. And the abysmal summer surge erased much of the progress made during shutdowns.
Now, the US is in the throes of what doctors say will be the worst coronavirus surge yet. But there’s little appetite for more shutdowns. Instead, here’s what some governors and mayors are doing to try to get a grip on the pandemic:
Most states now have mask mandates
A growing number of cities and at least 33 states require masks to be worn inside public places or under specific circumstances.
Michigan is one of many states grappling with an onslaught of new Covid-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths. So last week, the state ordered residents to wear masks in any gathering of two or more people at places such as stores, offices and schools, the state’s health department said.
“Businesses cannot admit people without masks, with few exceptions,” the Michigan health department said.
Health experts say wearing a mask around those who don’t live in your household is one of the cheapest and easiest ways of helping drive this pandemic to the ground.
In fact, a face mask might give more protection than a vaccine, Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in mid-September.
Local officials enact curfews
Some cities and counties are now under nightly curfews, including Miami-Dade County; El Paso County, Texas; and Pueblo, Colorado, which have all seen rampant spikes in new Covid-19 infections.
“What we are facing in Pueblo is a public health disaster, which threatens lives and our economy,” Mayor Nicholas Gradisar said Thursday in announcing a two-week curfew.
“We’re required to take immediate action to save Pueblo’s businesses and to save lives.”
El Paso County has implemented a two-week curfew, said Judge Ricardo Samaniego, the top government official in the county.
Samaniego said all hospitals and intensive care units in the El Paso area had already hit 100% capacity.
“We’ve had significant spikes to the point that our hospital capacity is really tapped,” El Paso Mayor Dee Margo said. “We’re probably at the end of our rope.”
In Florida, anyone in Miami-Dade County must wear a mask in public when social distancing is not possible or when there is no physical barrier present, according to an order from County Mayor Carlos Giménez.
Miami-Dade said the mask mandate is good for business, too.
The order said “widespread, consistent usage of masks and other facial coverings will help the County to avoid future business closures, provide confidence to business customers and tourists, and help limit economic harm to the community.”
Restaurants must collect diners’ personal info
In Michigan, restaurant diners and bar patrons must provide their phone numbers for contact tracing in case they get exposed to someone with coronavirus, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said.
New York state announced similar rules in September.
At least one member of each party dining at a restaurant indoors must provide contact information in case a contact tracer needs to reach them, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office said.
Capacity is slashed at stores and places of worship
What makes this virus notoriously hard to control is how easily it spreads when people don’t feel sick. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 40% of infections are asymptomatic, and 50% of transmissions happen before symptoms begin.
So states are clamping down on crowd sizes, both indoors and outdoors.
Connecticut, which had been one of the most successful states at handling the pandemic, is starting to see rising numbers again.
So starting this Friday, restaurants will be limited to 50% capacity, Gov. Ned Lamont said Monday.
Religious ceremonies are limited to 50% capacity or 100 people, whichever is smaller. Indoor event spaces are limited to 25 people, outdoor event spaces to 50 people, and theaters to 100 people.
Illinois is now under “resurgence mitigations” after test positivity rates soared in all regions of the state. As of Wednesday, all indoor restaurant and bar service is banned, and all meetings, gatherings or social events are limited to 25% capacity or a total of 25 guests, whichever is fewer.
And Colorado health officials have backtracked Denver’s reopening. Restaurants are now limited to 25% capacity indoors, or no more than 50 people total per room.
Places of worship are capped at 25% capacity or 50 people, and retail stores are now limited to 25% capacity.
“City leaders had already enacted tougher public health orders, including mandatory face coverings outdoors, to try to stave off these restrictions,” the Denver Department of Public Health & Environment said last week.
“But (the department) said the severity of increases forced the change.”
CNN’s Hollie Silverman, Tara Subramaniam, Casey Tolan, Kristina Sgueglia, Rosa Flores and Sara Weisfeldt contributed to this report.