More US states issue strict measures to fight coronavirus

Several states implement restrictions on bars, restaurants, festivals and other aspects of public life.

Coronavirus NYC
The coronavirus is quickly escalating across the US, with state and local authorities issuing restrictions across the country [Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg]

Officials in the United States have curtailed many elements of American life to fight the coronavirus outbreak in recent days, with health officials recommending that groups of 50 or more do not congregate in one place. 

New York, New Jersey and Connecticut announced that bars, restaurants and cinemas would be closed at 8:00pm local time (00:00 GMT) on Monday to fight the virus. Essential businesses like supermarkets and gas stations will be allowed to stay open. 

California, Ohio, Illinois, Massachusetts and Washington closed restaurants, bars, and schools on Sunday. 

Officials in Washington, DC, announced strict controls on public spaces such as bars and restaurants, including a limit of six to a table, the closure of night clubs, a distance of at least six feet (1.8 metres) between tables and no service to standing customers. 

The new measures came after most professional and collegiate sporting events were cancelled on Thursday and schools in many states had closed or started streaming classes for students to study at home. 

The US Supreme Court also announced on Monday that it was postponing arguments or late March and early April due to the coronavirus. Six of the nine justices are 65 and older, meaning they are at a higher risk of getting very sick if they were to contract the virus.  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that gatherings of 50 or more people should be cancelled or postponed for at least eight weeks, impacting planned festivals and concerts across the country. 

The coronavirus is expected to cause serious harm to the global economy, with tourism and trade suffering from the restrictions. In a sign of impending economic gloom, the Federal Reserve slashed its benchmark interest rate to near zero.

‘Wartime mentality’

“I’m aware that this will impact many, many good workers,” Ohio Governor Mike DeWine wrote on Twitter. “I can’t tell you how sorry I am, but we will work to mitigate the suffering. It is our goal for everyone to get through this. 

“We’ve made dramatic interventions to make a difference [and] stop our healthcare system from imploding”, DeWine said.

Travellers returning home from abroad were stuck in line for hours at major airports for screenings, crammed into just the kind of crowded spaces that public health officials have urged people to avoid.

Many restaurants in areas with restrictions are allowed to continue delivering food to homes, such as New York City.

“These places are part of the heart and soul of our city. They are part of what it means to be a New Yorker,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement Sunday night. “But our city is facing an unprecedented threat, and we must respond with a wartime mentality.”

While many in the US are now working from home and choosing to engage in “social distancing”, the act of limited unnecessary contact, there is no indication that the national government intends to enforce strict quarantines as other nations, including Spain and Italy, have done. 

“I think Americans should be prepared that they are going to have to hunker down significantly more than we as a country are doing,” said Dr Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House taskforce on combating the spread of coronavirus. He heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health.

The coronavirus has infected nearly 170,000 people worldwide, killing more than 6,500, according to the Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking the disease. Cases in the US are approaching 4,000, with at least 64 fatalities. 

President Donald Trump sought to calm a jittery nation by declaring the government has “tremendous control” over the situation and urging people to stop the panic buying of grocery staples that has depleted store shelves nationwide. Gun stores started seeing a similar run on weapons and ammunition as the panic intensified.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies