Some States Are Learning What Happens to COVID-19 Cases If You Reopen Too Early

If you’re waiting to see when COVID-19 cases might start to increase after states reopen businesses and public facilities, you might not have to wait much longer.

In fact, in some states, it appears that upward trend is already well under way.

A daily tracking map done by The New York Times reports that 20 states have had rising confirmed COVID-19 cases over the past 14 days.

Six of those states are in the South, which was the first region to reopen businesses and public places.

The map also shows 20 states with decreasing case numbers over the past 2 weeks and 10 states where cases have plateaued.

A weekly graph done by Reuters shows 17 states with an increase in COVID-19 cases for the week that ended May 31.

It noted that Arizona, Virginia, Alabama, and South Carolina, saw confirmed COVID-19 cases rise by more than 35 percent between May 24 and May 31.

In addition, at least a half-dozen states have reported record numbers of single-day increases in confirmed COVID-19 cases during the first week of June.

In many places, however, it’s still difficult to pinpoint why or sometimes even whether cases are increasing and decreasing.

But some trends are emerging.

It appears reopening has likely been done more safely in some places than in others. Those experiences hold lessons for states that are still in the early phases of reopening.

“Some will say if case numbers are up, why reopen?… But we have to reopen,” Dr. David Rubin, MSCE, director of PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, which has been modeling the spread of COVID-19, told Healthline in late May. “The discussion is how well you can contain transmission as you reopen.”

His models predict a resurgence in several places over the next couple weeks, including the Houston area.

Amid the uncertainty, here are five things we do know about how the reopening effort is going so far and what it means as the reopening process broadens.

Some states are doing better

Alaska has become the first state to more or less fully reopen.

After starting to lift restrictions at the end of April, Gov. Mike Dunleavy last week allowed restaurants, bars, gyms, shops, churches, and other facilities to open to full capacity.

Alaska was one of the few states that a late April study found was doing the minimum amount of testing to be able to safely reopen.

The New York Times tracking map lists Alaska as one of the 20 states with increasing cases.

The graph shows that state’s cases declining through most of May, but a spike of cases was reported during early June.

Colorado may be a better success story, at least so far.

On May 27, Gov. Jared Polis allowed restaurants to reopen, if they follow strict restrictions.

The state’s COVID-19 cases peaked in late April and reopening began with salons and some other businesses on May 1. Cases have declined since.

“Colorado and Denver have been doing well. They’ve been an example for the country,” said Rubin in late May.

Over the next 4 weeks, his model expects cases in the state to remain around the current level in Denver County and decline in many of the state’s other counties.

The goal isn’t to eliminate the virus, Rubin notes. It’s just to maintain an equilibrium that prevents case numbers from rising out of control.

“I see many areas of the country that are teetering on that balance,” he said.

Some states are doing worse

In many places, this may not fully be the fault of reopening — although it likely doesn’t help.

Some areas of the countries may be pushing too hard, too fast, Rubin said.

“What we see is a bunch of counties moving at very different speeds with some moving extremely fast, like in Texas and the South,” he said.

South Carolina began reopening retail shops in late April, and restaurants and bars are now allowed to be open.

The New York Times map lists South Carolina as one of the 20 states where cases are increasing.

The state also reported its largest daily increase in COVID-19 deaths on May 27.

On June 2, state officials urged people in South Carolina to take precautions because of the rise in cases.

State officials say that Greenville is now a hot spot. They also said 8 percent of COVID-19 tests administered on June 6 came back positive.

Arizona is also starting to heat up.

Officials there report a surge of cases and hospitalizations that began about 10 days after the governor allowed stay-at-home orders to expire on May 15.

Minnesota reported its highest single day death toll on May 28. It was listed on the New York Times map as one of the 20 states with an increase in cases last week, but this week it’s listed as one of the states with decreasing cases.

Last week, Florida is reporting a noticeable increase in cases.

On June 3, the state recorded 1,419 new COVID-19 cases, the largest single day increase since the pandemic began. The day before there were 1,317 new cases.

State officials said confirmed COVID-19 cases in Florida increased an average of 46 percent per day last week.

They did note that the percentage of positive test results has decreased to 4 percent.

Alabama’s allowed stores to open at the end of April and other businesses in mid-May. The state has seen a gradual increase since the start of May and a 28 percent jump in weekly cases in late May.

On June 3, the state reported that 30 percent of all of its COVID-19 cases have been recorded in the past two weeks.

In late May, Alabama also reported shortages of beds in its intensive care units (ICUs). In the state capital of Montgomery, hospital emergency rooms are now treating seriously ill COVID-19 patients as ICU beds fill up.

Missouri, which started to reopen in early May, is also starting to see an uptick in cases.

The state has surpassed 14,000 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began. Officials reported today that there is now one confirmed COVID-19 case among the people who attended a crowded party at the Lake of the Ozarks during the final week of May.

North Carolina allowed stores to open May 8 and restaurants to reopen on May 22. It is also reporting increases in case numbers in late May.

On June 4, state officials reported 1,189 new cases, the highest daily increase since the pandemic began.

They also reported today that the daily average the past week for new COVID-19 cases was 1,032. That’s the first time the average has been above 1,000.

They added that 739 people with COVID-19 had been hospitalized the past 24 hours, breaking the one-day record set on Friday.

Georgia and Tennessee also reported a rising trend in cases in late May. Tennessee is still on the New York Times list of states with rising cases while Georgia is listed as plateauing.

Concerns are also rising in Austin, Texas, where city officials are reporting a steady increase in new cases.

Other places have seen more localized jumps that are less likely to be tied to reopening, though could possibly be exacerbated by it.

Outbreaks at meat processing plants, such as one in Minnesota, have contributed to spread the virus.

As have outbreaks at places like nursing homes and jails, such as one in El Paso, where daily new cases in the city appear to have jumped after an earlier decline.

Some states and communities might want to keep an eye on South Korea, where public facilities in Seoul are now being closed again after outbreaks occurred after the reopening there.