Their state and local leaders gloated over low coronavirus cases numbers, and heralded aggressive reopening plans. Supporters demanded the media apologize to them for saying reopening orders would put residents at risk for COVID-19.
But now, a handful of lockdown-averse states that have seen explosive growth in coronavirus cases have begun ordering businesses to shut down again, closing beaches and bars, mandating masks, and implementing stay-at-home policies.
Over the past several days, a number of states in the Sunbelt, including Florida, Texas, Arizona, and South Carolina, have seen an exponential rise in coronavirus cases.
At least two governors who celebrated reopening orders just a few months ago have begun to reinstitute some mandatory business closures.
Still, some states that have seen an uptick in coronavirus cases have hesitated to mandate business closures again.
Despite a raise in cases, neither California nor Arizona have implemented statewide closures but, in recent days, their governors have backed measures encouraging residents to wear masks.
Ten states that have seen case numbers spike—Washington, Arkansas, Delaware, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina and Oregon—have hit pause on their reopening plans.
“We all want to get back to doing all the things we love in Washington during the summer, and fully open our economy, but we aren’t there yet,” Gov. Jay Inslee said Saturday when announcing that eight counties eligible to reopen would no longer do so due to “significant rebounds in COVID-19 activity.”
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak joined dozens of mayors around the country implementing mandatory mask orders in recent days while San Francisco Mayor London Breed said plans for hair salons, museums, tattoo parlors, nail salons and outdoor bars to reopen on Monday would be scrapped amid a rise in cases.
But in Utah, Gov. Gary Herbert said he has no intention of another lockdown despite the state’s epidemiologist warning that a “complete shutdown” would be imminent if the spike of coronavirus cases continued.
Here are the states and counties forced to start locking down—again.
Gov. Doug Ducey claimed in early June that “we are not in a crisis situation.” But, by the end of the month, the state had 73,908 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with nearly a third coming in the previous week.
Facing mounting pressure, Ducey announced on June 29 that bars, gyms, and theaters across the state would shut down once again from 8 p.m. The executive order, which also covers water parks and river tubing, will not affect churches or restaurants.
“Arizonans have been, by and large, terrific, fantastic and responsible,” Ducey said. “But we have found some situations in categories where we need to take more aggressive actions.”
Ducey, a two-term Republican, had been criticized by some opponents for being slow to respond when the virus first took hold in the U.S., then refusing to take steps to address the recent spike in Arizona. He declined to mandate mask use despite several cities and counties in the state doing so, and he attended a Trump rally on June 23 with 3,000 people in a Phoenix megachurch.
Three days before announcing his executive order, as new virus cases were hitting record numbers, he insisted another shutdown was not necessary. “This is not about closing businesses. This is about public education and personal responsibility,” he said.
Ed Montini, columnist for The Arizona Republic, argued that Ducey had prioritized pleasing Trump and the business community over saving lives. “It has been a disaster,” he wrote. “We don’t need a businessman now. We need a governor.”
As the state prepares to host a number of high-profile sporting and political events, Florida has reported a spike in cases. While on June 22, the state reported under 3,000 new cases, by June 27, there were an alarming 9,585 new coronavirus cases the previous day—a new one-day record.
In April, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had gloated: “When you look at some of the most draconian orders that have been issued in some of these states and compare Florida... Florida has done better.”
Just two weeks ago, he brushed off concerns about rising cases, saying it was mostly relegated to “low risk groups,” and was partially the result of increased testing.
But the state finally took some actions to limit the spread, announcing on Friday that it was “suspending on premises consumption of alcohol at bars statewide.”
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez signed an order on Saturday closing the county’s recently reopened beaches for the July 4 weekend, and banning large Independence Day celebrations and parades.
“I have been seeing too many businesses and people ignoring these lifesaving rules [on face coverings and social distancing],” Gimenez said in a statement. “If people are not going to be responsible and protect themselves and others from this pandemic, then the government is forced to step in and restore common sense to save lives.”
DeSantis still defended the state’s reopening, pointing to the lower number of cases last month.
“Remember: We did the opening at the beginning of May, had very steady, manageable cases. We’ve obviously seen that turn lately,” he said in a press conference this week. “But we have a very quiet May, I think everyone has to acknowledge that.”
Texas had one of the shorter stay-at-home orders in the country, and balked at implementing statewide mask rules.
But on Thursday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott paused the state’s reopening plans. A day later, he ordered the state’s bars to close, limited restaurant capacity to 50 percent and banned river rafting.
“Every day, we make a plan. And every day, it changes,” Kim Finch, the owner of Dallas bar Double Wide told the Dallas Morning News. “It’s just unbelievable.”
Abbott said in a statement it was clear that the rise was driven by certain activities “including Texans congregating in bars” and the new executive order was essential to “our mission to swiftly contain this virus and protect public health.”
In an interview, the governor conceded that the reopening plan had been too aggressive, and may have accounted for a rise in cases.
“If I could go back and redo anything, it probably would have been to slow down the opening of bars, now seeing in the aftermath of how quickly the coronavirus spread in the bar setting,” he said in an interview this week.
IMPERIAL COUNTY, CALIFORNIA
On Friday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom urged the southern border county to reinstate its stay-at-home order as the rate of positive test results hit a staggering 23 percent. If the county didn’t come up with its own plan to shut down, Newsom said he would “intervene.”
Imperial County had only nine coronavirus cases in late March but by mid-June, it had skyrocketed to 4,389 cases among 180,000 residents—the highest per capita rate of any Californian county—and was overwhelming the local morgue and hospital system.
Local health officials attributed the spike to large gatherings held over Mother’s Day and Memorial Day, as well as the county’s proximity to Mexicali, a city of 1 million people, many of whom cross the Mexican border to Imperial County daily for work, healthcare and family reasons.
Imperial County is one of 15 counties on a watch list, compiled by California’s health department, with more than 10 percent of people testing positive.
“We are in the midst of the first wave of this pandemic,” Newsom said. “We are not out of the first wave. This disease does not take a summer vacation.”