Despite steps to reopen, most in US still wary of COVID-19 risks

COVID-19 respirator and face shield
COVID-19 respirator and face shield

US Air Force, Devin Nothstine / Flickr cc

A new poll from the Washington Post–University of Maryland shows most Americans are still too hesitant about the novel coronavirus to eat in restaurants or shop in stores.

Of those polled, 67% said they would be uncomfortable going to a retail store, and 78% say they would be uncomfortable in a sit-down restaurant. Fifty-six percent of participants, however, said they were comfortable going to a grocery store. Gyms and movie theaters ranked high on the list of businesses Americans say are not safe to reopen.

Surprisingly, opposition to opening is equally high in states that have and have not lifted stay-at-home orders in recent days. And although Democrats are more likely to oppose opening the economy than Republicans, members of both political parties said they would not feel safe with rapid reopening.

The Washington Post said not much has changed when it came to Americans' fear of contracting COVID-19. As was the case 2 weeks ago, 63% of Americans say they are either very or somewhat worried about getting the virus and becoming seriously ill, with 36% saying they are either not too worried or not at all worried.

Though half of all 50 states have started opening businesses in some capacity, some are more open than others. WalletHub ranked the 50 states from "most open" to "least open" in an effort to see how stay-at-home mandates were still at play, and where they had expired. South Dakota, Utah, North Dakota, Missouri, and Idaho were ranked the most "open" states, with few limits on businesses. New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Rhode Island, and Hawaii are the least open states, as is Washington, DC, and these localities have extended stay-at-home orders through most of May.

As of today, the United States has 1,199,700 COVID-19 cases, and 70,300 fatalities, according to the tracker maintained by the New York Times. The country has been averaging between 2,000 and 2,500 deaths per day in May, and more than 1,000 deaths per day since Apr 1. Nearly 25,000 new cases are confirmed each day, representing a growth of between 2% to 4% daily.

Healthcare capacity in face of continued infections

Since leaked documents from the White House yesterday showed that the US daily death toll from COVID-19 will likely climb throughout May, reaching 3,000 deaths per day by Jun 1, more states are grappling with how to maintain a fight against the virus until a vaccine is made available.

A new document published today from experts at Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security offers a plan for expanding and adapting the US healthcare system for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among top recommendations is the creation of a national database that would help health systems access personal protective equipment (PPE) during a cluster of COVID-19 activity from states not currently seeing an increase in cases.

"Once the crisis phase of the pandemic is over, entities at every level should conduct a high-level mapping of the depth of their PPE supply chain. Often, visibility of the entire supply chain system is quite limited, and a careful review of the entire system is the first step toward strengthening our supply chain capabilities," the report said.

Other areas the report addresses are resuming deferred healthcare services, financial support for healthcare providers, sustaining the healthcare workforce, mental health support for health workers, medical care and sick leave for all Americans, and telemedicine.

Kawasaki-type syndrome in children

NYC Health, the health department for New York City, released a report yesterday detailing the appearance of a multi-system inflammatory syndrome in 15 pediatric patients, possibly related to COVID-19. The syndrome resembles toxic shock or Kawasaki disease clinically, and has also been reported among pediatric patients in the United Kingdom.

Ten of the 15 patients, identified from Apr 17 to May 1, tested positive for COVID-19 via polymerase chain reaction testing or serology, but less than half had any respiratory symptoms. Though no patients have died, the syndrome is serious, with more than half of the 15 patients requiring blood pressure support, and 5 requiring mechanical ventilation.

NYC Health warns that pediatric intensive care units across the country should be on the lookout for the syndrome, and treat any patients under 21 with signs of toxic shock, persistent fever, and Kawasaki disease with intravenous immunoglobulin and aspirin.

Pence: Task force could wind down within month

Today Vice President Mike Pence said the White House's coronavirus task force might disband within a month.

"I think we're starting to look at the Memorial Day window, early June window as a time when we could begin to transition back to having our agencies begin to manage … our national response in a more traditional manner," Pence told reporters, according to the Washington Post.

The task force met daily throughout March, but now only meets several times per week, insiders say. As the federal social distancing guidelines expired on Apr 30 and Trump said governors would now be in charge of reopening plans, the task force has receded from the national spotlight.

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