Washington, Jul 22 (EFE).– The US, the country hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, on Wednesday was beginning to implement renewed shutdowns of various activities with an eye toward controlling the increasing spread of Covid-19, with the wearing of facemasks – even by long-reluctant President Donald Trump – having proved to be the most effective way to prevent infection by asymptomatic carriers.
With 3.9 million confirmed cases so far, the US has registered about 26.1 percent of the world’s 15 million known cases, according to the latest figure in the independent tally being kept by The Johns Hopkins University.
On Wednesday, Baltimore Mayor Bernard Young ordered restaurants in the city starting Friday to suspend their indoor service for at least two weeks and to limit diners to seating outdoors or to take-out orders.
He told reporters he had always said city officials would continue monitoring the data and adjusting various restrictions if the data indicated that was needed.
In addition, he said that he will require all people older than age 2 to use face coverings in public.
The measures, which will be adjusted according to how local infection figures evolve, were announced after the number of daily cases almost doubled between July 4 and July 12, after the city had moved to phase 2 of its reopening, according to local health commissioner Letitia Dzirasa, as quoted by The Baltimore Sun.
An interactive map prepared by The New York Times shows that nine of the country’s 50 states, including Texas and Florida – two of the hardest hit by the increase in infection – have reversed their plans to return to something resembling normality.
Another 12 states have paused the reopening process, while 17 have reopened and 12 others, including New York, which early on became the epicenter of the pandemic, are still moving forward with their reopenings.
After weeks during which their use injected turmoil into the political environment, face coverings have finally emerged as society’s main tool in halting the spread of the virus.
The director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Robert Redfield, on Wednesday defended the use of face masks as a “powerful tool,” although he refused to comment on the warning enunciated by the president on Tuesday that the pandemic will “get worse before it gets better.”
Saying that it was very difficult to foresee what would happen, Redfield admitted on “Good Morning America” that recently there had been a significant increase in the number of infections around the country.
To counteract the situation, Redfield recommended face masks, calling them probably the best tool we have and urging Americans to accept wearing them as part of their responsibility that could have a “very significant” impact on the spread of Covid-19 in the coming weeks.
District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser also upped her insistence that people wear face masks, making their use obligatory for everyone older than age 3.
Among the few occasions in which face mask use will not be required in the US capital is during intense physical exercise in the open air or while a person is eating or drinking.
The Johns Hopkins figures put California – which on March 20 became one of the first states to quarantine its almost 40 million residents – far out front in terms of the number of confirmed coronavirus cases with 409,598.
New York has 408,886 cases, followed by Florida and Texas.
On Wednesday, Florida tallied 9,785 newly confirmed cases and 139 deaths, leading the three southern counties that are the Sunshine State’s virus epicenter – Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach – to require the use of face masks, with fines for anyone failing to comply.
Miami-Dade County detected 2,788 new cases, while Broward registered 1,170 and Palm Beach 555.
While Covid-19 continues to spread, the US is still allocating significant resources toward the search for a vaccine.
Pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and BioNTech announced that they have come to an $1.95 billion agreement with the Health and Human Services and Defense Departments to ensure that the country will receive 100 million doses of BNT162, the vaccine on which they are jointly working, as soon as it is approved by the Food and Drug Administration.