WASHINGTON (CNN) — All 50 states have now partially emerged from coronavirus lockdowns, but with only a handful of states showing significant improvement in infection rates, some experts caution it could be too soon.
On Wednesday, Connecticut became the final state to begin lifting restrictions, now allowing retail shops and restaurants to reopen their doors.
Despite the reopening milestone, health officials say, Americans remain at risk of catching the highly transmissible and sometimes deadly virus.
As of Tuesday, at least 17 states had registered an upward trend in average daily cases — a rise of at least 10% — over the previous seven days, according to an analysis of Johns Hopkins University data.
Only 16 states’ average daily cases dropped more than 10%, while the rest were level or near level, the data showed.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released 60 pages of detailed guidance Tuesday on how to reopen the country — including road maps for schools, restaurants, transit and child care facilities. In the guidance, the center advised that the first phase of reopening should begin after a state has seen a downward trajectory in cases over 14 days.
Across the US, more than 1.5 million people have tested positive for the virus and at least 91,921 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University.
“The only thing that was keeping this very contagious virus in check was each of us keeping that physical distance,” former Baltimore Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen said Tuesday. “If we’re going to let people go to work and reopen, we are going to be introducing risk of some kind. The key is what are the steps we can take to reduce that risk as much as possible?”
States have movedat different paces as governors balance reopening their economies with keeping residents safe. Some states, including Georgia and Texas, rolled out aggressive reopening plans, while others have taken a more measured approach.
New York, California and Pennsylvania are among states that are allowing locales reporting declines in new cases to reopen as other areas remain closed.
Many cities also remain under stay-at-home orders. In Baltimore, gatherings of more than 10 people are still prohibited and retail stores remain closed.
Last month, the White House issued guidance to help states plan for reopening, but the measures were not mandatory and governors were left to make their own decisions.
Six feet may not be enough
Experts have warned that lifting restrictions prematurelymay mean thousands more Americans will die in a second spike in cases.
The responsibility lies with individuals to adhere to guidelines, practice safe social distancing and adopt habits to keep themselves and loved ones safe.
Research shows that a cornerstone to the guidance — staying 6 feet away from others in public — might not be enough to protect against the virus.
A computer model shows the particles of mucus and saliva emitted when people cough or sneeze could travel farther than 6 feet — and with the help of a light breeze, as far as 18 feet.
It’s something to consider when setting up social distancing recommendations, said Dimitris Drikakis, an engineering professor at the University of Nicosia in Cyprus, who co-created the model.
“The work is based on modeling. We have not done experiments with people,” Drikakis said.
Writing in the journal, Physics of Fluids, the authors said their computer models suggested current recommendations that people keep 6 feet apart might not be adequate in certain outdoor conditions.
“At a mild human cough in the air at 20 degrees C (68 degrees F) and 50% relative humidity, we found that human saliva-disease-carrier droplets may travel up to unexpected considerable distances depending on the wind speed,” Drikakis said.
Churches push to reopen
While public health officials caution against crowded indoor activities, churches across the US are pushing to open their doors.
In North Carolina, after a federal judge struck down an order from the governor disallowing indoor services, some churches welcomed their congregations back. About 100 people walked into a Raleigh church this week, CNN affiliate WTVD reported.
A northern California pastor who defied county orders and held a livestream service has been diagnosed with the virus. At least three confirmed cases have been linked to the event, Mendocino County said.
In Mississippi, services have been discouraged, but the governor has deemed places of worship “essential services” and they never official shut down.
“I did personally ask pastors to pause in-person services so that they could keep their flocks safe. I want to help those pastors to safely resume in-person services,” Gov. Tate Reeves said on Facebook.