Amid an ongoing pandemic, states across the nation are continuing to ease COVID-19 restrictions. In some cities, traffic is returning to pre-pandemic levels and travel is increasing, despite a worrisome increase in daily new cases.
On Jan. 2, more than 300,000 new COVID-19 cases were reported in a single day in the U.S. That number eventually dipped to as low as 38,000 on March 14, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. And, though while still not reaching numbers in the hundreds of thousands, daily case reports are beginning to rise again.
On March 10, Texas increased capacity of all businesses and facilities in the state to 100 percent. Many states followed suit, and daily new reported cases have since inched back up to more than 70,000 on April 12.
On March 29, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said she felt a sense of "impending doom" as COVID-19 cases rose once again across the country. Walensky has been warning of a potential new COVID-19 surge in the U.S. for weeks. She said in a press conference that she saw signs that her prediction is coming to pass.
"I’m going to pause here. I’m going to lose the script and I’m going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom," she said during the press briefing March 29. "We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are and so much reason for hope, but right now, I’m scared."
On April 12, the seven-day rolling average for daily new cases in the U.S. rose over the past two weeks from 63,236 on March 28 to 70,040 on Sunday, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Last week, New York, Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania and New Jersey together reported 44% of the nation's new COVID-19 infections - or nearly 197,500 new cases in a seven-day period - according to Johns Hopkins University.
The spike in cases has been especially pronounced in Michigan, where the seven-day average of daily new infections reached 6,719 cases on April 4 — more than double what it was two weeks earlier.
Though Michigan has seen the highest rate of new infections in the past two weeks, Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has said she does not plan to tighten restrictions. She has blamed the case surge on pandemic fatigue, which has people moving about more, as well as more contagious variants.
"Taking steps back wasn’t going to fix the issue," Whitmer said as she got her first vaccine on April 6 at Ford Field in Detroit, home of the NFL’s Lions. "What we have to do is really put our foot down on the pedal on vaccines and implore people to do what we know keeps us safe: masking, distancing, hand-washing."
Whitmer called for the federal government to surge vaccines to her state, but the White House said last week Michigan had not ordered its full allotment of available vaccines.
During a White House coronavirus briefing Monday, Walensky told reporters that the answer in a crisis situation such as Michigan is facing is to go back to virus control basics and order lockdowns.
"I think if we tried to vaccinate our way out of what is happening in Michigan, we would be disappointed that it took so long for the vaccine to work, to actually have an impact," Walensky said.
Walensky explained that at the same time, diverting vaccines away from other states where the situation isn’t as dire right now could unwittingly seed the ground for more outbreaks.
Elsewhere, three of Washington state’s 39 counties will tighten up pandemic restrictions beginning Friday. That means decreasing capacity for indoor dining at restaurants, retail stores and gyms from 50% to 25%. Limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings will also be also reduced.
New coronavirus cases and COVD-19 hospitalizations in the three counties exceeded criteria set by Gov. Jay Inslee to stay in Phase 3 of the state’s economic reopening plan.
Meanwhile, more than 120.8 million people, or 36.4% of the U.S. population, have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some 74 million people, or 22% of the population, have completed their vaccination.
Despite the rise in daily cases, the seven-day rolling average for daily new deaths in the U.S. did not increase over the past two weeks from 975 on March 28 to 969 on Sunday, according to Johns Hopkins University.
This story was reported from Los Angeles. The Associated Press contributed.