Restaurants, schools, movie theaters and bars in some of the largest cities and most populous states in the United States are reopening and removing restrictive measures, bringing out more Americans after months of isolation and bringing closer the country of what it was before. the coronavirus pandemic.
In Chicago, tens of thousands of children returned to face-to-face classes at public schools this week. The city’s parks, closed since March of last year, have reopened. Texas has lifted the mask requirement and lifted restrictions on the operation of businesses and commerce related to the pandemic. Manhattan restaurants have been allowed to operate without capacity limits, and South Carolina has lifted restrictions on mass meetings.
The reopenings are seen both as an official push to return to public life and as a reflection of the hope the country is starting to feel due to the vaccination and the decline in virus cases.
But many Americans face a dilemma: They don’t know whether to give in to optimism, as do the governors and mayors of California, North Carolina and Michigan, who have approved the vast reopening of the cities. businesses and schools – or if they let themselves be guided by their own still-present fears about the virus and warnings from federal health authorities, for which it is too early to lift many of the restrictions.
This week, for the first time in nearly a year, Kitty Sherry, 36, sent her son Jude to his elementary school in Chicago. I was torn between enthusiasm and worry.
“Partly, I’m so glad he’s back to school,” Sherry said. But she is concerned about the risk to teachers’ health and said her family still avoid going to restaurants and other confined spaces due to the pandemic. “The problem is not over,” she said. “So we don’t party a lot.”
Government officials have sent ambiguous and cautious messages to the public. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s senior adviser on Covid-19, said this week that for small groups of fully vaccinated people, the risk of meeting at home is low. Other activities, he says, depend on data, models and “clinical common sense.” Fauci added that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will soon release guidelines on what vaccinated people can do safely.
CDC director Rochelle Walensky told a press conference that she was genuinely concerned about the lifting of restrictions in some states. He warned that as the number of cases does not decrease and stay the same and as variants of the coronavirus spread in cities like New York, “we run the risk of completely losing the advantage we have so hard earned.” .
“I know people are tired; they want to come back to life, to normality, ”said Walensky. “But we are not there yet.”
The message many Americans hear from their elected leaders is more optimistic.
There are plenty of reasons for optimism: Vaccinations have increased dramatically in recent weeks, and daily reports of new coronavirus cases have declined across the country since the peak reached in January.
But the positive signs come with caveats. Although national statistics have improved significantly since January, over the past week they have parked on a plateau.
The United States still has more than 65,000 new cases of Covid per day on average – a number comparable to the peak of last summer [entre junho e agosto], according to the New York Times database. The country experiences more than 2,000 daily deaths from Covid on average, although deaths are an indicator that does not correspond to the current situation, as people can take weeks between becoming infected with the coronavirus and dying from it.
New, more contagious strains are circulating in the country and have the potential to increase the number of cases again. The number of tests performed has fallen by 30% in recent weeks, causing experts to worry about how quickly new outbreaks will be reported. And millions of Americans are still waiting to be vaccinated – among them, restaurant workers, who have now returned to operations in large numbers across the country.
Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said there were signs the country may have weathered the worst of the pandemic. But she still fears states will reopen their economies too quickly, repeating the same mistakes made in previous periods of the pandemic, when the easing of restrictions was followed by a further rise in cases.
“Instead of just opening a few low-risk places and making sure that doesn’t change the numbers, it looks like they’re completely opening the floodgates,” Nuzzo said.
Most schools across the country are open to students, with lessons at least partially in person, and evidence suggests this has been done with relative safety. But the reopening of schools in some districts has been repeatedly extended by outbreaks in communities where other types of restrictions remain lifted.
“This week, my son will be returning to class partly in person, partly remotely, for the first time,” said Nuzzo, who lives in Maryland. “In the meantime, restrictions on restaurants have been lifted, cinemas are operating again. What I think is “let my son go back to class before all that.” “
Returning to crowded offices and schools leaves other Americans both excited and anxious.
Amanda Sewell, a high school teacher in Lexington, Ky., Will welcome students to class next Monday for the first time in a year. The room still has the ornaments of Mardi Gras [o carnaval americano] Last year. The date on the chalkboard is still March 13, 2020 – the day the school closed, she returned home, thinking that in just two or three weeks she and her students would be back.
Sewell is already vaccinated against the virus and says she is delighted to see her students in person, having taught “unresponsive boxes” on Zoom. But she knows things won’t be the same as before.
“I’m still on the back foot. I think some people think that just because we have the vaccine, the pandemic is over, and it’s really not over, ”Sewell said. “I think there are still a few months left before which was normal before.”