It’s easy to assume COVID-19 cases will go down after lockdown orders lift across the country, but, unfortunately, the data suggests otherwise. New hot spots of COVID-19 are emerging across the U.S.
Select areas in California, Wisconsin, Arkansas and more are seeing spikes in cases, and some areas are even reporting the highest numbers they’ve seen since the pandemic hit the U.S. Here are a few areas to keep an eye on and what to do if you live there.
Confirmed COVID-19 cases have surged in Alabama, reaching an all-time high this week, nearly two weeks after the state reopened. The numbers are startling: The state has had 400 new cases five times in the past seven days. “We’ve had this week a couple of the highest days we’ve seen in number of cases, and that’s certainly concerning to us,” State health officer Dr. Scott Harris said, according to AL.com. As of Friday afternoon, Alabama had 16,588 confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Arkansas has seen a consistent rise in cases over the past 30 days, according to data from the Arkansas Department of Health. Currently, there are 1,830 active cases of COVID-19 in the state. The infection rate is also steadily climbing and is now at 5.5 percent. Throughout the course of the pandemic, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson did not issue a statewide stay-at-home order.
The state has seen a 25 percent increase in confirmed cases in the past 14 days, according to data tracking website COVID Exit Strategy as of Thursday evening. Sonoma County, which was the first to reopen in the state, has reported 203 new cases of the virus in the past 14 days and doubling its case rate during that time, according to the Los Angeles Times. Similar situations are being seen in other areas of the state, and some public health officials have walked back some previously loosened guidelines, the Times reports. In California, there are 103,886 confirmed cases as of Thursday, according to the California Department of Public Health.
This state has seen a 40 percent increase in cases over the past two weeks, according to COVID Exit Strategy data from Thursday evening. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said in a press briefing this week that he’s “concerned” after the state had some of its highest numbers in COVID-linked hospitalizations and deaths since the pandemic began. As of Friday morning, there are 26,488 laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
Cases of the virus continue to spike in the state, and it looks like it could get worse before it gets better. Data from the New York Times suggests select metropolitan areas in Virginia, such as Roanoke and Charlottesville, are just days away from reaching new highs in cases. There are 40,477 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Friday, according to the Virginia Department of Public Health.
On May 14, Wisconsin’s Supreme Court struck down the state’s stay-at-home order, ruling that state officials had not followed the proper protocol for creating the limits for state residents. There are currently 16,974 confirmed cases in the state as of Friday, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. The state just saw its highest single-day increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths this week, according to data from the New York Times.
The story is the same in several states and metropolitan areas across the country, and public health experts aren’t exactly shocked. “It’s to be expected,” Dr. Amesh A. Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, tells Yahoo Life.
In some areas, public health officials are scaling back measures to reopen, while others are not, putting a lot of the public safety responsibility on individuals.
Steps you can take to stay safe
It’s very important to be informed about your local data, Ryan Panchadsaram, former U.S. deputy chief technology officer at the White House during the Obama administration and co-founder of COVID Exit Strategy, tells Yahoo Life. He and other public health and crisis experts with experience stemming from their work at the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services and on the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, joined forces to create COVID Exit Strategy with the goal of tracking “each state’s progress toward stopping the spread of COVID-19,” he says.
The website originally was formed after he and his colleagues had trouble seeing which states were following the criteria the White House had set for reopening. “We hope the site is useful for state leaders and those who can help influence state leaders — like the public — to get a better understanding of how their state is doing,” he says. “They can use the site to compare themselves to neighbor states and adopt the policies and practices that are working.”
Experts urge caution if you live in one of the areas with rising cases. “If you live in one of those areas, it will be important to be cognizant of the heightened risk, and if you are trying to minimize your risk to exposure, social-distance as best as possible,” Adalja says. “Older people and people with underlying illnesses should be especially conservative,” Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist and professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, tells Yahoo Life.
For everyone, Schaffner stresses the importance of practicing known methods of preventing the spread of COVID-19 — engaging in social distancing, practicing good hand hygiene and wearing a mask in public. And if COVID-19 cases are currently on the decline in your area, Schaffner urges awareness that they still could go up again. “No area is immune. Case levels won’t stay flat everywhere, even under the best circumstances,” he says.