America faces a new normal as coronavirus outbreaks show no sign of slowing down

There’s no way around it, Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health told CNN Thursday night. “We will have a lot more cases.”

At least 1,680 cases have been reported across 47 states and the District of Columbia. At least 41 people have died: 31 in Washington state, which has been the epicenter of the outbreak, with at least 457 cases; four in California; two in Florida; one in Georgia; one in Kansas; one in New Jersey and one in South Dakota.

The number of cases will likely continue jumping as more tests become available and some facilities begin conducting drive-through testing.

In New York, which reported 328 positive cases, the Broadway League said it is suspending all shows through April 12 “in support of the health and well-being of the theatre public, as well as those who work in the theatre industry.”

It was one of many cancellations that left the public stunned.

Others hit the pause button

The NBA said Wednesday it is suspending the rest of its season after a Utah Jazz player tested positive for the virus. That announcement came shortly after the NCAA announced it would ban public audiences from March Madness games — then a day later canceled the tournaments altogether.
Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, Major League Soccer and the PGA Tour either canceled events over the coming weeks or suspended their seasons. And NASCAR announced it will hold events without fans for the foreseeable future.
The National Rifle Association also said it is canceling its annual meeting, set to take place next month in Nashville. In 2018, there were more than 85,000 attendees, according to an NRA spokeswoman at the time.
And The Walt Disney Company announced the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida would close through the end of the month, along with Disneyland in California.
Fans leave the Golden 1 Center on Wednesday in California after the NBA basketball game between the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings was postponed at the last minute.

Gatherings are banned, schools are closed

Across many states, the bottom line: Stay home. And if you have to go out, keep your distance.

Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio and Oregon became the first states to announce statewide shutdowns of all K-12 schools.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee issued guidance Thursday to shut down all public and private K-12 schools in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties, the state’s most populous areas, for the next six weeks.

“Today’s decision has a full range of implications from learning plans and childcare, to free and reduced-price breakfast and lunch, just to name a few,” Inslee said in a statement. “I anticipate this will cause ripple effects … but we can’t afford not to do it.”

Coronavirus is putting America on hold

A day earlier, Inslee announced a ban on all events with more than 250 people in the state’s largest three counties. He has also issued guidance for assisting-living facilities to limit visitors after at least 10 homes reported cases.

The announcement paralleled the one by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who directed events with 500 or more people to be canceled or postponed and announced only “medically necessary visits” will be allowed in nursing homes. Some experts have advised banning all visitors from skilled-nursing facilities nationwide.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he stood by Cuomo’s announcement on large gatherings and called the city’s rising coronavirus case numbers “striking and troubling.” New York City had 42 new cases in a day, he said.

“We don’t do any of this lightly. This is difficult,” he said in a Thursday news conference. “We know it has a serious, serious impact on a number of businesses … that’s really, really painful for the many, many people who work in that field.”

Protecting residents from a deadly threat, nursing homes must decide who gets in and who stays out

Similar directives were issued by California, Oregon, New Mexico, Ohio and Utah leaders, who urged the cancellation of large public events.

In Georgia, which had its first death Thursday and has reported 31 cases, officials designated a state park with emergency mobile units as an isolation site for residents who test positive.

At least nine school districts — including the state’s three largest — also announced closures as early as Friday and lasting up to two weeks.

Some shoppers panic-buy essentials

Fearing what might come, Americans from New York to Chicago to Atlanta flocked grocery stores, emptying shelves of essentials.

One Massachusetts resident told CNN it took nearly half an hour to check out as staff members reassured shoppers via intercom that the store would stay open all weekend.

In New York City, some grocery stores had little to nothing left, a Twitter user posted.

Shopping patterns mirrored those “you would see as people prepare for a major storm,” a Walmart spokesperson told CNN earlier this month.
At one grocery chain in Pennsylvania, shelves were kept “packed with products similar to when a blizzard is being called for and folks know they might be stuck at home,” a sales executive said.

‘Shutting down most of our structures of society’

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said he wants his state to “treat this like it is — and that is a crisis.”

The state has reported five positive cases, but Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton said it’s likely that number is not even close to the real tally of infections.

A state-by-state breakdown of US coronavirus cases

“We know now, just the fact of community spread says that at least 1%… of our population is carrying the virus in Ohio today,” Acton said Thursday in a news conference. “We have 11.7 million people. So, the math is: over 100,000. That just gives you a sense of how this virus spreads and is spreading quickly.”

“The steps we are taking will absolutely save lives,” she said of the governor’s actions. “We’re all sort of waking up to this new reality.”

State officials will release fact sheets and checklists to help residents “figure out what this new norm is going to be like,” she said.

“We are basically slowly shutting down most of our structures of society,” she said.

Drive-through testing begins

The number of US cases is likely to be much higher and will continue to climb as more Americans are tested, health officials have said.

Confusion over the availability and criteria for coronavirus testing is leaving sick people wondering if they're infected

But that process, initially conducted by the CDC, has proved faulty. The slow rollout prompted the federal government to approve private labs to conduct their own testing and has so far sent out more than a million tests. Vice President Mike Pence said 4 million more would be available by the end of the week.

The testing system currently in place is not geared to the country’s needs, and “that is a failing,” Fauci, with the National Institutes of Health, told a congressional committee Thursday.

“The idea of anybody getting it (a test) easily, the way people in other countries are doing it, we’re not set up for that,” Fauci said. “Do I think we should be? Yes, but we’re not.”

Communities in New York, Illinois and Colorado began moving toward drive-through testing.

Health care workers from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment test people for Covid-19 on Thursday in Denver at the state's first drive-up testing center.
Cuomo announced New York will have the first drive-through testing facility on the East Coast and officials will start testing people by appointment in New Rochelle, a suburb community that registered more than 100 cases in about a week and has imposed a 1-mile containment zone.
A suburban Illinois hospital said it also will try drive-through tests, telling residents they would drive up to an ambulance and get tested without leaving their car, CNN affiliate WGN reported.
At Colorado’s first drive-up facility, residents will need a doctor’s note saying they need to get tested, CNN affiliate KMGH reported. Wait times Thursday ranged from three to four hours, the news station said, citing the Colorado Department of Health and Environment.

CNN’s Rob Frehse, Joe Sutton, Mark Morales, Amanda Jackson and Jamiel Lynch contributed to this report.

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