CDC warns if this is open near you, expect new coronavirus outbreaks

According to the latest coronavirus update from The New York Times, a little more than 57,000 new coronavirus cases were reported in the US on Monday, along with at least 751 new coronavirus-related deaths. Over the past week, though, the average of new daily cases was down 18%, to 55,153 per day.

That’s the good news. The more worrisome part is that you don’t have to look too hard to find examples of people going to too much of an extreme in celebrating the decline. Spring breakers flocking to Miami Beach, for example, have led to hundreds of arrests, according to the mayor there who says that too many people are ignoring coronavirus protocols. And on a related note, the CDC released the results of a new study earlier this month that found if one particular thing is opening back up in a big way in your community, there’s a direct link to a rise in new coronavirus cases. Can you guess what it is? We’ll give you a hint — it involves restaurants.

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The CDC’s study found what appears to be a direct relationship between the prevalence of renewed, reopened indoor dining at restaurants in a community, and new COVID-19 rates. “Allowing on-premises restaurant dining was associated with an increase in daily COVID-19 case growth rates 41–100 days after implementation and an increase in daily death growth rates 61–100 days after implementation,” the health authority reported.

Some 97% of US counties saw restaurants begin reopening indoor or what’s known as “on-premise” dining over the course of the CDC’s study period. The study went on to find that eating both indoors as well as outdoors at restaurants led to a 2.2 percentage point increase in deaths 61-80 days after the restaurants reopened, and that amount increased to 3 percentage points 81-100 days post-reopening.

The danger herein, of reopening too fast, too soon, is what CDC director Rochelle Walensky apparently had in mind during a March 3 interview with NPR host Ari Shapiro. “I think the next two or three months could go in one of two directions,” she said. “If things open up, if we’re not really cautious, we could end up with a post-spring break surge the way we saw a post-Christmas surge. We could see much more disease. We could see much more death.”

Alternatively: If we “really hunker down for a couple of more months, we get so many people vaccinated and we get to a really great place by summer.” It’s up to us, in other words, which of those two visions becomes reality.

According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University who’ve been tracking the COVID pandemic since its inception, there have now been more than 29.4 million coronavirus cases identified in the US. Additionally, more than 535,000 coronavirus-related deaths in the US have been reported.

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