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Tuesday, January 19, 2021

State Officials Resisting Restrictions as COVID-19 Surges

With the coronavirus coming back with a vengeance across the country and the U.S. facing a long, dark winter, governors and other elected officials are showing little appetite for imposing the kind of lockdowns and large-scale business closings seen last spring.

Many also continue to resist issuing statewide mask rules.

Among the reasons given: public fatigue, fear of doing more damage to already-crippled businesses, lack of support from Washington, and the way efforts to tame the virus have become ferociously politicized.

The coronavirus is blamed for 10.6 million confirmed infections and almost a quarter-million deaths in the U.S., with the closely watched University of Washington model projecting nearly 439,000 dead by March 1. Deaths have climbed to about 1,000 a day on average, while new cases per day are soaring, shattering records over and over and reaching an all-time high on Thursday of over 153,000.

Despite the rise in cases, several state leaders have said they will not institute another lockdown.

In Mississippi, where cases are slowly rising, Republican Gov. Tate Reeves said he will not consider a statewide shutdown of businesses.

In Montana, where cases are up more than 16% in the past week, but the state’s chief medical officer, Greg Holzman, said that returning to a full lockdown of businesses “would definitely help” curb its spread but would put families living paycheck-to-paycheck “in dire straits.”

Local government officials in Texas and Florida have also shared similar sentiments. Florida’s health department reported an increase of 6,933 COVID-19 cases on Friday, the most in a day without a data backlog since Aug. 8. The health department also released a new report that shows more than 820 schools across South Florida have had COVID-19 cases over the past two months.

But some major states have instituted new restrictions amid a rise in cases.

In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced a stay-at-home advisory that will go into effect starting Monday, Nov. 16. Residents are advised to only leave home to go to work or school, or for essential needs such as seeking medical care, going to the grocery store or pharmacy, picking up food, or receiving deliveries.

In New York, the state with the largest number of Caribbean-Americans in the country, Governor Andrew Cuomo has imposed a 10 PM cut-off time for bars, restaurants, bowling alleys and gyms, much to the disapproval of business owners.

Public health officials and medical experts have warned that t is running out as hospitals buckle under the crush of cases and Americans approach Thanksgiving, a period of heavy travel and family gatherings that are all but certain to fuel the spread of the virus.

By MICHELLE R. SMITH, CARLA K. JOHNSON and LISA MARIE PANE

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