Here it goes again
America is in the midst of an extraordinary surge of covid-19
On the same weekend that Florida smashed the single-day state record for cases of covid-19—reporting over 15,000 in one day— Disney World, the gargantuan theme park in Orlando, opened its doors to masked revellers. At the start of June, when cases and deaths looked to be declining after reaching the terrible milestone of 100,000 dead, America appeared to have managed its epidemic as well as Europe— neither superbly nor awfully. Both began opening then at roughly the same time.
There was one difference, however. Some American states began reopening even as infection looked to be growing, as governors sought to cast off the shackles of locked-down life and a half-open economy. Bars crowded with thirsty patrons, restaurants reopened. There were some mass gatherings, whether to protest against racial injustice or to attend the president’s restarted rallies. Six weeks later, America is facing a secondary surge of cases quite unlike any other country. Having muddled along just about as well as other Western democracies, America now looks to be exceptional, in a disastrous way.
Some states, like California, which seemed to be early success stories in containing covid have also been beset by surges. On July 13th Gavin Newsom, the governor, announced that bars, indoor restaurants and cinemas would be closed to arrest the spread of the virus. On the same day schools in Los Angeles and San Diego announced that for 600,000 pupils the fall semester would begin online-only.
Predicting the course of the virus has proved remarkably difficult. When Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott, the Republican governors of Florida and Texas, delayed stay-at-home orders in March they seemed to be inviting the virus to spread. That wave has now arrived as predicted, only three months late. Governors did not heed the warning signs—a rise in the share of tests coming back positive, reports of increased hospitalisations—until too late.