US states roll back reopening plans, announce new measures at schools amid surging COVID-19 cases


File photo: Agencies

WASHINGTON, July 13 (Xinhua) -- As the United States is faced with a ballooning COVID-19 caseload, a number of states have rolled back their reopening plans and announced new measures in the coming fall semester, some with caution.

With COVID-19 cases surging in the state of California, Governor Gavin Newsom on Monday announced one of the most sweeping rollbacks of any state's reopening plans, saying the state made the decision because "COVID-19 cases continue to spread at alarming rates."

According to the state government's website, effective from July 13, all counties must close indoor operations in the sections including dine-in restaurants, wineries and tasting rooms, movie theaters, card rooms, zoos and museums and family entertainment centers.

It added that 30 of the hardest-hit counties, where 80 percent of California residents live, will be required to close indoor business operations in fitness centers, places of worship, offices for non-critical sectors, personal care services, hair salons and barbershops, and malls.

The announcement came after California's two largest public school districts -- Los Angeles and San Diego which have nearly 870,000 students combined, said in a joint statement that the new school year will start online only, citing concerns over the pandemic.

As Texas faces one of the sharpest increases in new infections in the country, Governor Greg Abbott has suggested in recent television interviews that putting the state back under a lockdown is possible.

"I made clear that I made this tough decision for one reason: It was our last best effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. If we do not slow the spread of COVID-19 ... the next step would have to be a lock-down," the governor told local TV station KLBK.

In the state of New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Monday that public schools can reopen in the fall if located in phase-four reopening regions where daily infection rate remains 5 percent or lower over a 14-day average.

"That means the virus is under control. That means it's safe to reopen and then the schools can proceed to reopening in that region," he said at a briefing.

The state's Education Department on Monday presented a framework for the school reopening guidance to the state's Board of Regents on Monday, which includes health checks and screenings, school bus disinfection and social distancing.

On the other hand, as Florida on Sunday reported a record single-day increase of 15,299 cases, Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, doubled down on his call for reopening schools, echoing a similar demand from President Donald Trump.

"People say, 'kids may be the vectors then, in the community' ... but it's been found over and over again, as people have looked at this and studied this, particularly in Europe, that the school children aren't vectors for this, for whatever reason," DeSantis said on Saturday. "They usually get infected by the parents. They're usually not infecting adults."

Meanwhile, despite the surge, the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando opened its Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom sites Saturday, asking visitors to wear masks and adhere to other safety measures. Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios, also part of the amusement park complex, will reopen on July 15.