Virus surge: Schools abandon classes, states retreat

Virus_Outbreak_US_Surge_40557 FILE - In this Nov. 5, 2020, file photo, custodial workers clean a classroom at Richard A. Simpson Elementary School in Arnold, Mo. The school went to fully virtual learning on Monday, Nov. 2, after more than 5% of the staff and students tested positive for COVID-19. They will stay virtual at least until Monday, Nov. 16.
Virus_Outbreak_US_Surge_81209 FILE - In this Nov. 11, 2020, file photo, patrons enjoy food and drink at The Brass Rail in Hoboken, N.J. School systems in several states are giving up on in-person classes, and some governors are reimposing restrictions on bars and restaurants or getting more serious about masks, as the coast-to-coast resurgence of the coronavirus sends deaths, hospitalizations and new infections soaring. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said Thursday, Nov. 12, he will sign an executive order to give towns and cities the option to limit hours at non-essential businesses after 8 p.m.
Virus_Outbreak_US_Surge_29679 FILE - In this Nov. 10, 2020, file photo, a commuter rides the Staten Island ferry in New York. School systems in several states are giving up on in-person classes, and some governors are reimposing restrictions on bars and restaurants or getting more serious about masks, as the coast-to-coast resurgence of the coronavirus sends deaths, hospitalizations and new infections soaring.
Virus_Outbreak_US_Surge_92856 FILE - In this Nov. 10, 2020, a customer sits at a bar at a Bloomington, Minn., restaurant. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced restrictions that bars and restaurants will be required to end dine-in service between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m., beginning Friday in an effort to slow the spread of the COVID-19.
Virus_Outbreak_US_Surge_42615 FILE - In this Nov. 10, 2020, Tia Richardson, seated left, Gracelyn Morris, center, and Kenned Yakpoh record information from residents before administering coronavirus tests at the Central Family Life Center, in the Stapleton neighborhood of the Staten Island borough of New York. School systems in several states are giving up on in-person classes, and some governors are reimposing restrictions on bars and restaurants or getting more serious about masks, as the coast-to-coast resurgence of the coronavirus sends deaths, hospitalizations and new infections soaring.
Virus_Outbreak_US_Surge_08321 FILE - In this Oct. 17, 2020, file photo, a sign showing proper guidelines for being a visitor of Terror Town is hung on the ticket booth in Williamsburg, Ohio. School systems in several states are giving up on in-person classes, and some governors are reimposing restrictions on bars and restaurants or getting more serious about masks, as the coast-to-coast resurgence of the coronavirus sends deaths, hospitalizations and new infections soaring.
Virus_Outbreak_US_Surge_19195 FILE - In this Nov. 10, 2020, file photo, Gracelyn Morris, right, takes information of a resident before she is given a coronavirus test at the Central Family Life Center in the Stapleton neighborhood of the Staten Island borough of New York. School systems in several states are giving up on in-person classes, and some governors are reimposing restrictions on bars and restaurants or getting more serious about masks, as the coast-to-coast resurgence of the coronavirus sends deaths, hospitalizations and new infections soaring.
Virus_Outbreak_US_Surge_68520 FILE - In this Nov. 10, 2020, file photo, Kenned Yakpoh places a coronavirus test swab in a biohazard envelope after helping a resident with the test at the Central Family Life Center in the Stapleton neighborhood of the Staten Island borough of New York. School systems in several states are giving up on in-person classes, and some governors are reimposing restrictions on bars and restaurants or getting more serious about masks, as the coast-to-coast resurgence of the coronavirus sends deaths, hospitalizations and new infections soaring.
Virus_Outbreak_US_Surge_66468 FILE - In this Nov. 11, 2020, file photo, medical works operate a testing tent at a COVID-19 mobile testing site in the Brooklyn borough of New York. School systems in several states are giving up on in-person classes, and some governors are reimposing restrictions on bars and restaurants or getting more serious about masks, as the coast-to-coast resurgence of the coronavirus sends deaths, hospitalizations and new infections soaring.
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School systems in Detroit, Indianapolis, Philadelphia and suburban Minneapolis are giving up on in-person classes, and some governors are reimposing restrictions on bars and restaurants or getting more serious about masks, as the coast-to-coast resurgence of the coronavirus sends deaths, hospitalizations and new infections soaring.

The crisis deepened at hospitals, with the situation so bad in North Dakota that the governor this week said nurses who test positive but have no symptoms can still work. Idaho clinics struggled to handle the deluge of phone calls from patients. And one of Utah’s biggest hospital systems is bringing in nearly 200 traveling nurses, some of them from New York City.

The virus is blamed for more than 242,000 deaths and over 10.5 million confirmed infections in the U.S., with the country facing what health experts say will be a dark winter because of disregard for mask-wearing and other precautions, the onset of cold weather and crowded holiday gatherings.

“It should frighten all of us,” Dr. David Peterman, CEO of Idaho’s Primary Health Medical Group, said of the virus numbers. “It’s easy to look at TV, and say, ‘I’m not in the intensive care unit, my grandmother’s not in the intensive care unit.’ But if I say to you your doctor cannot treat your child with an ear infection because I cannot answer your phone call, or your doctor is on quarantine, or our clinics are full with people with coronavirus?”

Deaths per day in the U.S. have soared more than 40% over the past two weeks, from an average of about 790 to more than 1,100 as of Wednesday, the highest level in three months.

That is still well below the peak of about 2,200 deaths per day in late April, in what may reflect the availability of better treatments and the increased share of cases among young people, who are more likely than older ones to survive a bout with COVID-19.

But newly confirmed cases per day in the U.S. have rocketed more than 70% over the past two weeks, reaching an average of about 127,000 — the highest on record. And the number of people hospitalized with the virus hit an all-time high of more than 65,000.

Amid the staggering numbers, some state leaders maintained a hands-off approach, pushing “personal responsibility” rather than government-imposed restrictions such as mandatory mask-wearing.

Reflecting what has largely been a divide between red and blue states, Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma has refused to impose a mask mandate, citing concerns about enforcement and a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Instead, he held a news conference this week with doctors who implored residents to wear masks.

In North Dakota, nurses opposed GOP Gov. Doug Burgum’s move to allow health care workers who test positive to remain on the job, saying scientifically proven measures such as a mask mandate should be tried first. Burgum has declined to do that.

In Idaho, Republican Gov. Brad Little also resisted calls for a statewide mask requirement even as health clinics grappled with dozens of staff absences and thousands of calls from people seeking help.

In other states, officials have tightened restrictions, though not as much as when the virus first hit in the spring.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot called on residents to cancel Thanksgiving gatherings, limit all social gatherings to 10 people, and stay home except for essentials, like work or getting groceries, starting on Monday.

Minnesota joined states including New York in ordering bars and restaurants to close by 10 p.m. Wisconsin’s governor this week advised people to stay home. Utah’s governor put in place a statewide mask mandate, while Indiana’s governor extended his state’s mask rule for another month.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said Thursday he will sign an executive order to give towns and cities the option to limit hours at nonessential businesses after 8 p.m. The mayor of Newark, New Jersey, imposed a 9 p.m. curfew for residents of three hard-hit ZIP codes.

Maine Gov. Janet Mills joined governors of six other states in the Northeast in suspending interstate youth hockey games.

Philadelphia dropped plans to start bringing students back to school on Nov. 30. Michigan’s largest school district, Detroit, said it will suspend in-person classes next week for its roughly 50,000 students, joining other districts that have shifted to online-only classes.

“The district relied on science and the data to reopen schools for in-person learning this summer and fall and relied on the same to decide that it was no longer safe for our students and employees to work in an in-person school environment,” Detroit Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said.

In New York City, the looming threat of a shutdown of the 1.1-million-student school system had families and teachers watching case numbers closely. Mayor Bill de Blasio has said that in-person schooling will be halted if the rate of tests coming back positive for the virus in the city reaches 3%.

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Associated Press writers Sophia Tareen in Chicago and Rebecca Boone in Boise, Idaho, contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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