With all of New York state now beginning to reopen nonessential businesses and ease restrictions, Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged the public on Tuesday to continue to take precautions to avoid a “spike” in cases as is happening in Florida and other states that reopened early.
“We’re in a new phase. We’re feeling good. We’ve done great, but we have to stay smart, because reopening resets the whole game,” Cuomo said. “When you reopen, when people start coming out, in some ways, you go right back to day one.”
New York, which was once the epicenter of the country’s outbreak, has been gradually reopening regions depending on when they meet certain epidemiological requirements that measure the severity of the local outbreak. New York City, the hardest hit part of the state, shifted into phase one of reopening on Monday.
That first phase of reopening will send up to 400,000 New York City residents back to work, Mayor Bill de Blasio has previously said.
“We know as a fact that reopening other states we’re seeing significant problems,” Cuomo said Tuesday. “Twelve states that reopened are now seeing spikes. This is a very real possibility. Countries across the globe that reopened are seeing spikes.”
Cuomo pointed to other states, specifically Florida, that have seen a resurgence of the virus since reopening. On June 6, Florida reported about 1,400 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus, its most in one day since the state health department began to track data on the outbreak in mid-March. Daily new cases in the state have remained about 1,000 since June 2, according to the state’s surveillance dashboard.
Despite rising cases, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced last week that most of the state could enter phase two of reopening, which eases restrictions on retail locations and allows bars and theaters to reopen. The virus has infected more than 66,000 people in Florida and killed at least 2,765 people, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
“Just because you reopen does not mean you will have a spike, but if you’re not smart you can have a spike,” Cuomo said. “We’re not fine. We’ve made great progress, but we have to stay smart and we have to stay disciplined.”
Other states that were among the first and most ambitious to reopen have also reported spikes in recent days. Texas, which began to reopen on May 8 and expanded its reopening on May 18, reported a second-consecutive day of record Covid-19 hospitalizations on Tuesday. There are currently 2,056 confirmed Covid-19 patients in Texas hospitals, according to the Texas Department of Health and Human Services. That figure has been on the rise in recent days.
Hospitalization numbers better reflect a state’s reopening performance since it’s more difficult to skew than number of confirmed cases, which fluctuates depending on how many tests are being run.
New cases are also surging in Arizona, which began to reopen in mid-May. Daily new cases in the state topped 1,000 for the first time on June 1, rising to 1,168 the next day, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. The data since then is incomplete, the state says. Such spikes become especially concerning if the influx of patients begin to stretch the state health systems thin.
The Arizona Republic reported Monday that the state health director sent a letter on June 6 to hospitals asking them to “fully activate” their emergency plans to ensure hospitals continue to have adequate capacity. Arizona’s largest health care system, Banner Health, told CNBC on Monday that its number of Covid-19 patients on ventilators has quadrupled since May 15.
“We have seen a steady climb of COVID-19 cases in Arizona over the last two weeks,” Banner Health’s chief clinical officer Dr. Marjorie Bessel said in a statement. “This trend is concerning to us, and also correlates with a rise in cases that we are seeing in our hospital ICUs.”
Nationally, confirmed cases have been ticking upward ever since Memorial Day weekend. While cases aren’t spiking on the national level, they appear to have plateaued at more than 20,000 new confirmed cases every day, according to Hopkins’ data.
Health officials expected cases to rise when restrictions were eased, former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC earlier Tuesday, adding that parts of the country, including Arizona and Texas, look “pretty hot” in terms of spread.
“Make no mistake, we’re going to be tolerating a lot of spread of Covid-19 heading into the summer and the fall,” he said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “And we’re not going to shut down again.”
Disclosure: Scott Gottlieb is a CNBC contributor and is a member of the boards of Pfizer and biotech company Illumina.