While the number of new cases is decreasing in hard-hit areas like New York, Michigan and New Jersey, or small states like Hawaii, which is down to around just 1 new case a day, the numbers are spiking upwards in nearly half of the country, from Illinois to Texas to New Hampshire to Alabama.
There isn’t one single reason for the increases, but several, based on the way the U.S. shut down (or didn’t), the current push to reopen and the nature of the virus itself.
While many Americans are able to stay home, essential workers are still heading in each day, to hospitals, nursing homes, supermarkets and factories — all places where they can come in contact with people with COVID-19.
Nursing homes, in particular, are dealing with large outbreaks of the virus. At least 10,000 deaths in the U.S. have been linked to nursing homes, where the older residents are highly susceptible to COVID-19, and workers are often surrounded by sick patients. One nursing home in New Jersey was so overwhelmed by the number of patient deaths that police found 17 bodies stacked in the facility’s morgue.
In the Midwest, several meat processing factories are dealing with large outbreaks among their workers that only began in the last few weeks. At a Tyson Foods meat factory in Perry, Iowa, 58 percent of the workers have tested positive for COVID-19, NBC News reported. Tyson, and several Smithfield meat factories, have had to temporarily close or slow down production as workers have gotten sick, leading to meat shortages nationwide.
Additionally, many of these essential workers are making minimum wage and can’t afford to stay home and quarantine, even if they get COVID-19.
“They are afraid of losing their jobs,” J. Luis Nunez Gallegos, an assistant medical director at a health center in Washington, D.C., told The Washington Post. “They are anxious their employers won’t respect the quarantine, or that two weeks seems too long, and they don’t always have the savings to get by.”
And as these essential workers continue to go to work, they also risk bringing COVID-19 home to their families and spreading the virus further.
The Push to Reopen
Now, with the economy struggling, many governors are starting to slowly lift stay-at-home orders in their states and allow non-essential businesses, such as hair salons, retail stores and gyms, to reopen. This is happening despite warnings from health experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci who warn that reopening too soon could cause another spike in cases, and polls showing that most Americans are against easing restrictions.