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The first states to endure the coronavirus this spring hoped the worst would be behind them.
Instead, the virus is coming back.
Many places that suffered most in the first wave of infections, including California, Louisiana, Michigan and Washington state, are seeing case counts climb again after months of declines. It’s not just a matter of more testing. Hospitalizations and, in some places, deaths are rising, too.
The disease is raging — Florida reported 15,300 cases Sunday, the biggest single-day increase of the U.S. pandemic — and experts say the resurgence in the original battlegrounds has common causes. They include a population no longer willing to stay inside, Republicans who refuse face masks as a political statement, street protests over police violence and young people convinced the virus won’t seriously hurt them.
And even though some of the states led by Democratic governors delayed restarting their economies until weeks after more eager peers like Georgia, they still jumped too soon, critics say.
“I don’t think there’s any question about that anymore. Even in California, we opened up too fast,” said John Swartzberg, a doctor who is a clinical professor emeritus at the University of California at Berkeley.
So far, the rebound hasn’t reached the states hardest hit by the first wave: New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts. But New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Friday that it’s on its way.
“We’re going to go through an increase, and I can feel it coming,” he told WAMC radio. “The only question is how far up our rate goes. But you can’t have it all across the country and then have it not come back.”
While public attention last week focused on an explosion of disease in Sun Belt states that largely missed the first wave — Arizona, Florida and Texas — California’s hospitalizations and daily death toll hit new highs. The state, first to shut down its economy, reported a record 149 dead Wednesday and more than 300 since then.
“We’re seeing community spread and hospitalizations like we saw in late April — and what we hoped would be the height of infection,” said Barbara Ferrer, public health director for Los Angeles County, which on Sunday reported 3,322 new cases and 18 new deaths.
Louisiana’s daily case count is nearing its previous peak, reached back in April, according to Johns Hopkins University. And Washington, first to detect an outbreak, is seeing record numbers of infections, although deaths remain well below their March peak of 34 in a day.
As traumatic as the initial wave may have been, the number of people infected didn’t come close to providing so-called herd immunity, experts say. The vast majority still has no natural protection.
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