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New York City and D.C. begin Phase 2 reopening, as virus cases spike in south, western states

Scientific experts say case increase part of ongoing first wave, not a second wave

Updated: June 22, 2020 - 8:57am

New York City and the District of Columbia on Monday begin their Phase 2 reopening plans, potentially sending hundreds of thousands of people back to work and opening up spaces that have been locked down for months due to the pandemic.

Meanwhile, coronavirus cases have begun to surge in some southern and southwestern states, including major spikes in Arkansas and Arizona. More than half of U.S. states have reported an increase in their seven-day average of new cases, following reopening efforts over the last few weeks.

But don't call it a second wave, say the experts.

"What I would call this is continued transmission with flare-ups," said Dr. Arnold Monto, a flu expert at the University of Michigan. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recently said, "When you have 20,000-plus infections per day, how can you talk about a second wave?” 

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey is maintaining the position that his administration long anticipated a spike in cases in June. Other states, like Texas, which began its reopening effort on the early side, has maintained flat testing numbers. 

In New York City, the last region of the state to enter Phase 2, Mayor Bill de Blasio has given the go-ahead for restaurants to begin hosting customers outdoors – which in the urban environment means on sidewalks, curb lanes and plazas. Salons and barbershops will also reopen at 50% maximum occupancy, and playgrounds will be open with social-distancing monitors appointed to watch the children of the city play. 

In the nation's capital, restaurants will be allowed to seat patrons indoors at up to 50% capacity, and parks, pools, libraries and gyms will be reopened with restrictions. Shopping at non-essential businesses is back, and houses of worship may host up to 100 people. D.C. has met the threshold of 15 days in decline in community spread of the illness, though the local government plans to hire 60 to 100 additional contract tracers. 

The novel virus has infected at least 2,280,000 Americans, and the U.S. death toll is currently 120,000.

Over 27 million tests have been conducted across the country, with about 8.5% of them coming back with positive results. The documented mortality rate among confirmed cases is currently 5.3%, though the true mortality rate is likely significantly lower – closer to 1%. This past Sunday saw the lowest number of coronavirus deaths since March 24.