The 5 states in the worst shape for coronavirus
When the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 first hit the United States in January, with the U.S.’s patient zero diagnosed in Washington state on January 20, 2020, most found the threat to be relatively low. Much of the news we’d heard up to that point was merely of China and their response, followed by a minimizing characterization of the disease as a “harsh cold” or “mild flu.” But then came Italy and Iran, hit hard and fast by the swift and deadly force of the virus, which hospitalized many and decimated communities for months to come. And then we, too, fell to the disease, caught off-guard, unprepared and under-protected, ill-equipped for the severity and speed of COVID-19, which first took out Seattle, then New York, and later the rest of the country. Groceries were bought out, schools were closed, N95 respirators flew off the shelves, and zoom became our only way to converse face-to-face (more or less) with anyone with whom we were not sharing a home. March and April, the peaks of the pandemic, were pretty bleak for us all. But in May, things started to turn around for most of us. We had weathered the worst part of the storm… or so we thought.
Five states were hit pretty hard at the beginning of the pandemic: New York, California, Texas, Florida, and New Jersey. Hotspots for the virus, some responded quickly and decisively, while others did not. And while some appear to be through the worst of it, the way we all feel we must be since the gradual lifting of coronavirus restrictions, others seem to only be gearing up for another storm of the virus, this one perhaps even more severe, despite being taken less seriously. In this post, we will compare experiences and guidelines in place in the 5 states with the worst outbreaks, and examine their trajectory for coronavirus recovery or resurgence.
- New York
While New York was hit hard and fast with the disease, and the Big Apple swiftly became an epidemic epicenter, cases began a largely downward trend on April 25, just after the peak. This may have been because of Governor Cuomo’s caution in reopening -- despite a downward trend, Cuomo extended the stay-at-home order until May 15, to guarantee that New Yorkers were really out of the woods. Additionally, despite being in a second phase of reopening, all New Yorkers over the age of 2 for whom face coverings do not pose serious health risk due to underlying conditions are still required to wear masks whenever out and about. Therefore, the number of new cases has steadily declined.
California stands alone on this list in terms of coronavirus position; unlike New York and New Jersey, who also started out as virus hotspots, California has seen an increase in cases since beginning phased reopening, but also unlike Texas and FLorida, this increase has been steady and sustained, rather than the significant spike in new cases that the southern states have experienced. Why? Simply put, California entered reopening faster than New York and Jersey, but had stricter restrictions than Texas or Florida ever did, representing a sort of middle ground. Currently, California is planning on moving toward Phase 4 of reopening, which allows for congregations of large crowds.
Mask mandates issued by Governor Newsom are still in place, though. In comparison with New York and New Jersey, who have okayed parts of the states for Phase 4 reopening, while other majorly populous and high-risk areas (such as New York City) are still getting comfortable after an upgrade to Phase 3, California has moved relatively quickly, and has therefore perhaps seen its increase in cases accordingly.
As for the Lone Star State, there’s been a large rise in cases since mid-May (about the 25th), which also nearly matches the number of tests per that day, demonstrating (not so shockingly) that the more tests are run, the more case confirmations we see. Texas has acted somewhere between Florida and California, leaning more toward its Southern sister than its Northern one. Governor Abbott has perhaps been more upfront about acknowledging coronavirus’ presence in the state than DeSantis. While he moved Texas into reopening quickly, he adhered more strictly to the implementation of Phases to protect Texans. Likewise, though no real mask mandate has been issued state-wide, Abbott gave counties and municipalities autonomy in dictating mask rules, and many have imposed such restrictions for public health and safety.
On July 12, Florida reported more than 15,000 new cases in a 24-hour period, setting a new record for most number of new cases confirmed in a single day for any state. Previously, the record was held by New York at 12,000 new cases. What’s alarming about the difference, though, is that New York reported those numbers back in April, during the peak of the pandemic, while Florida reported them today. While New York and New Jersey are experiencing a downward trend in new cases despite their phased reopening, Florida and Texas’s numbers are skyrocketing, showing a curve that inclines at a grade that even Alex Honhold wouldn’t dare climb. Why? For Florida, the spike in numbers can almost certainly be attributed to a lacking of one very crucial restriction: a mask mandate. As of now, Governor DeSantis continues to refuse to mandate masks anywhere, and many Floridians back this complete and total refusal of protection, asserting that mandating that citizens wear masks is a severe breach of personal liberties. However, when looking at the science and CDC regulations that motivate mask wear, one wonders if refusing to wear a mask is as good as signing someone else’s death sentence, and where the breach of liberty mentality comes into play there. The swift and irresponsible reopening of Florida will continue to spike numbers of those infected with the disease, and with nearly a third of Florida’s population aged 60 and older, so will the death toll.
- New Jersey
Bringing up the rear is New Jersey, New York’s neighbor. The two states have seen similar curves in viral spread, and are the only states in our top 5 who have seen a downward trend post-spike. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy okayed the state’s entrance to Phase 2 on June 15, moving much more cautiously than most other states. His hesitancy to reopen rashly perhaps came from the dire position the state found itself in during the pandemic’s peak, ranking just second after its neighbor, New York. Since then, Murphy’s decisive action has brought the state down to position number 5. New
Jersey’s phases, despite its comparatively slow progress through them, cover more reopenings in each phase than those of other states. The state also continues to implement mask mandates, stating that all patrons and employees in any business must wear face coverings.