With the country seeing a surge in coronavirus cases, the leaders of California, Iowa and other U.S. states are imposing new restrictions to try to slow the spread of the virus that has killed more than 247,000 people in the United States.
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds ordered all indoor gatherings to be limited to 15 people, mandated wearing masks for people who are unable to socially distance from people indoors for more than 15 minutes and said all restaurants and bars must close by 10 p.m.
"If Iowans don't buy into this, we lose," Reynolds said at a Monday news conference. "Businesses will close once again. More schools will be forced to go online, our healthcare system will fail, and the cost in human life will be high."
In California, Governor Gavin Newsom went further, halting all indoor service at bars and restaurants and requiring people to wear masks when outside their homes, with limited exceptions. The restrictions apply to 40 of California’s 58 counties.
New Jersey also put tighter limits on gatherings of people from different households, while the city of Philadelphia banned any indoor gatherings among people who do not live together.
During the past week, the United States has recorded an average of nearly 150,000 new cases per day, according to Johns Hopkins University. The country has registered more than 11.2 million total cases during the pandemic, the most in the world.
The rise in cases has put a strain on the healthcare systems with half of the country’s states reporting new peaks in hospitalizations.
Some retailers have also reintroduced safety precautions on lines for customers to get into stores and set purchase limits on such items as hand sanitizer, toilet paper and disinfecting wipes to prevent hoarding.
Other commercial establishments, however, are seeking to increase business. Movie theaters in New York City are seeking permission to reopen, while restaurateurs in Massachusetts are trying to serve more customers at night.
In a phone call Monday with the nation’s governors, Vice President Mike Pence, who leads the Trump administration’s coronavirus response, urged the governors to tell residents the country has never been more prepared to deal with COVID-19. He said there is a large supply of personal protective equipment and cited promising early results from two vaccine candidates.
President-elect Joe Biden told reporters Monday that the Trump administration’s refusal to coordinate with his transition team has potentially dire consequences for the government’s COVID-19 response when the new administration takes office in January.
Biden cited the task of distributing any vaccines that are approved, calling it a “huge undertaking,” and saying that if his team is not given access to the current planning process then they will be “behind, over a month, month and a half.”
“More people may die if we don’t coordinate,” Biden said.
Trump has refused to concede his defeat while he pursues long-shot legal claims that the November 3 vote was rigged against him. He has blocked administration officials from cooperating with Biden’s transition team throughout government agencies.
Trump’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States was one of the key issues in the election. National polls showed that voters trusted Biden more than Trump to deal with the pandemic.