What ‘hotspot’ coronavirus states can learn from former 'epicenter' New York

Elise Solé and Stacy Jackman

New York, formerly the “epicenter” of the coronavirus crisis, has entered Phase 4 of the state’s re-opening plan, however other parts of the country — Texas, Arizona, Florida — are experiencing a surge in infections, a trend that Yahoo Life Medical Contributor Dr. Dara Kass calls “absurd.”

“It is almost unbelievable to me after everything we went through in New York...and lost hundreds of thousands of Americans in the process...to watch so many states just ignore that experience, is not just unbelievable and a little bit absurd, it’s completely unfair to the people who live in those states,” Kass tells Yahoo Life.

This week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that his state, with 398,770 confirmed coronavirus cases, had the lowest death toll (5 people) and hospitalizations (869) since the pandemic began. In March, the New York Times reported that the state had about 5 percent of worldwide coronavirus cases.

Kass says the three aforementioned states rushed to open — Arizona, now with more than 84,000 cases, allowed swimming pools, gyms and spas to resume in mid-May with social distancing measures and Texas, which expired its stay-at-home order on April 30, is home to almost 160,000 cases, a surge that prompted the governor to pause re-opening plans this month. In Florida, where more than 156,000 people are infected, Governor Ron DeSantis has committed to keeping business open. "We're not going back, closing things," he reportedly said, pointing to the socialization of young people as driving most infections.

The U.S. has 2,638,338 confirmed coronavirus cases and, according to the New York Times, Alaska, Arizona, California, Georgia and Idaho, among other states recorded their highest single-day cases.

“The recent spike in cases in Arizona, Texas, and Florida is related to the fact that the governors of those states did not follow the White House guidelines...and now we're seeing the consequences,” Kass tells Yahoo Life. In April, the Trump administration established three phases for re-opening the country, citing decreasing hospitalizations and testing-and-tracking capacities.

“They're not tracking their cases as an indication of what they should open and what they should close, canceling elective surgeries, increasing the capacity of their hospitals and stopping other patients from coming in and maybe expanding their telemedicine use,” says Kass. “They're not doing a lot of the things that we did in New York to divert our resources away from the hospital for patients that didn't have coronavirus and still take care of them while opening up our beds for the very sick COVID-19 patients being expected to come in.”

“The COVID virus is not acting differently in Arizona or Texas or Florida,” she adds. “We know what’s going to happen there.” Kass speculates that if New York does see “a second wave” it might start due to out-of-state travelers from “hot-spot states.” New York, Connecticut and New Jersey, which Kass applauds in leadership as it relates to COVID-19, now require people coming from 16 different states to quarantine for two weeks.

Gathering for the Fourth of July may spur more infections — Dr. Amesh A. Adalja of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, previously told Yahoo Life “This is going to be the new normal any time there is an activity or occasion where people want to be with other people.” Kass suggests wearing face masks, staying outside where wind may “dilute” the virus, avoiding parades and practicing hand hygiene are effective ways to stay safe.

Regardless of where people reside, some may not take health precautions seriously if they haven’t met anyone who has gotten sick. “When I got the virus myself, I went on Facebook and told everyone I knew...because I wanted people to feel personally connected to this experience,” Kass tells Yahoo Life. “...A lot of people still believe, falsely, that this is only a disease of older people. And if they're young and healthy, it's not going to affect them.”

“We have seen people in their twenties, thirties, and forties pass away,” she says. “This is not something that we need to ignore. Ignorance is not bliss.”  —Video produced by Stacy Jackman.

For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides. 

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