Home >News >world >In the U.S., coronavirus tells a tale of two Americas

Americans are seeing the coronavirus pandemic play out in two parts, as states that bore the brunt of cases in the early months of the pandemic have mostly contained the spread, while a new wave of infections is now threatening much of the rest of the country.

At the start of April, New York and New Jersey accounted for fully half of all cases nationwide. Those two states plus five others saw a combined rate of confirmed infections that was nearly eight times that of the rest of the country. But mitigation efforts that brought everyday life practically to a standstill bent the curve dramatically.

Then just as life in many of those states tiptoed toward a new normal, Americans elsewhere saw a rapid rise in infections. The divergence has been so dramatic that through July 1 those other 43 states now account for two-thirds of all confirmed cases nationwide.

To be sure, there have been exceptions. While many of the states hit hardest in the earliest days have kept infections in check so far, states like Louisiana, Michigan and Washington are seeing a resurgence. But the center of gravity has clearly shifted south and west, as states such as Florida, Texas and Arizona experience explosive growth in case counts.

What might account for the shift? A look at the data suggests that mitigation efforts in the newest hot spots may not have gone far enough, or lasted long enough, to effectively tame the spread. In many of the states experiencing a surge in new infections, bars, restaurants and retail businesses were shut down for a much shorter period than in the states that saw the first wave of cases. And governors in places like New York and New Jersey were more aggressive in requiring the public to wear face masks.

States in the Northeast that accounted for much of the early surge in cases were among the first to implement restrictions. Confirmed infections in each peaked in April, but most didn’t lift restrictions on restaurants, bars and indoor retail until case counts had dropped considerably and were continuing on a downward trend.

Three other states that saw early surges also kept those restrictions in place until case counts were well off their peaks. But unlike New York and New Jersey, for instance, the downward trends had slowed or even reversed before restrictions were lifted. Washington state and Louisiana have seen a continued upward trajectory since then. Michigan’s rate of Covid cases initially resumed its decline but in recent weeks has seen cases rising again, including more than 130 traced to a bar in East Lansing, Mich.

Many of the newest outbreaks are occurring in populous states in the South and West. California was the first state to implement a statewide stay-at-home order, but the state relaxed restrictions even while confirmed cases continued to rise. Arizona, Florida and Texas had kept case counts low, but never saw a significant decline in infection rates before reopening. Governors in all four states have now reimplemented some restrictions in an effort to contain the spread.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.

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