US moves toward a slow reopening during coronavirus

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Amid a bleak financial outlook in which the U.S. economy saw its steepest drop since the Great Recession, a mix of both optimism and caution blanketed the country Wednesday as officials weighed responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo noted that the death rate has declined in recent days but is still disturbingly high. At least 330 people died across New York state on Tuesday, Cuomo said, down from 335 and 337 the previous days.

“You see the decline has been slow at best, and still disgustingly high,” Cuomo said during a news conference at the state Capitol building in Albany.

Cuomo said he would sign an executive order Wednesday allowing hospitals in some counties in upstate New York to begin elective surgeries again. Like governors nationwide, Cuomo in recent days has announced a multiphased approach to reopening. The state, which has been the U.S. epicenter, has a stay-at- home order that is set to expire May 15, but it could be extended.

Most of the deaths have been in New York City, where police late Tuesday broke up a massive funeral in Brooklyn for a rabbi. Nearly 2,500 Orthodox Jewish community members attended the funeral.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called the large gathering “unacceptable.”

“When I heard, I went there myself to ensure the crowd was dispersed. And what I saw WILL NOT be tolerated so long as we are fighting the Coronavirus,” he said on Twitter.

Meanwhile, in neighboring New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy announced he would reopen all state parks and golf courses on Saturday. He said social distancing will still be required for the foreseeable future.

The death toll from COVID-19 reached nearly 60,000 in the United States on Wednesday, and confirmed cases surpassed 1 million, according to Johns Hopkins University. The shuttering businesses nationwide — restaurants, gyms, retail — has led the U.S. economy to shrink 4.8% in the first quarter.

Elsewhere across the country on Wednesday, governors continued to assess conditions in their states and craft plans for reopening businesses.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said church services with limited capacities could resume in early May. Several pastors across the country have defied stay-at-home orders, preaching before packed churches.

In Tennessee, retail shops are allowed to reopen at 50% capacity. Some businesses in Texas began allowing workers to return after Gov. Greg Abbott announced this week that on Friday restaurants could reopen at 25% capacity.

On Wednesday, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, met with President Donald Trump at the White House. He’s the latest governor to meet with the Trump — on Tuesday Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, last week Cuomo —and discuss paths forward in the pandemic.

During the meeting with Bel Edwards, Trump said that social distancing guidelines would be “fading out” in the weeks and months ahead. Earlier in the week, one his top advisers on the coronavirus task force, Dr. Deborah Birx, said social distancing would remain in place through the summer.

Edwards extended his state’s stay-at-home order, which was set to expire in the days ahead, to mid-May.


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