America, as we knew it, is on hold.
Local and state governments are leading the way in dealing with the crisis, implementing school closures and crowd restrictions and working to ease the minds of their residents.
The total number of people who have contracted Covid-19 since the coronavirus reached the United States in January has grown to nearly 1,600 people. All but four states have seen at least one case, and there have been deaths in six states, including Georgia, where a 67-year-old man died at a hospital in an Atlanta suburb.
In the past few days, the anxiety caused by the spread of the disease has caused businesses to ask employees to work from home and the major league sports leagues to hit the pause button or exclude fans.
These are extraordinary decisions, reinforcing the need for social distancing over the choice of being together at work or play.
Persistent questions over access to testing
“The idea of anybody getting it easily the way people in other countries are doing it, we are not set up for that. Do I think we should be? Yes, but we are not,” he told the House Oversight Committee.
“Your viewers should be encouraged that every state laboratory in America can conduct coronavirus tests today. We’ve also cleared out regulatory barriers to university hospitals and laboratories to be able to conduct tests,” he said.
CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem said the federal government is not doing its job.
“You’re seeing mayors and governors fill a gap that the White House and the President are simply incapable of filling,” she said. “That leadership gap.”
Americans have been flooded with announcements from what seemed like every corner of the country.
‘We have rung the alarm bell’
“We are marshaling the full power of the federal government and the private sector to protect the American people,” he said Wednesday evening. “This is the most aggressive and comprehensive effort to confront a foreign virus in modern history.”
Health officials have “never before seen a pandemic that can be controlled,” the agency’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said.
“We have called every day for countries to take urgent and aggressive action,” Ghebreyesus said in a statement. “We have rung the alarm bell loud and clear.”
Cases continue to rise
Hundreds of public schools have suspended classes, colleges are sending students home after shutting down campuses and sporting events, concerts and festivals have come to a halt.
In Connecticut, Georgia, New York, Tennessee, Virginia and Washington state, public school district closures will keep more than 600,000 students out of classrooms for various lengths of time.
On Thursday morning, National Guard troops were seen outside the containment zone setting up table and tents and putting out food for families who rely on school lunches.
NBA canceled, March Madness closed to public
Los Angeles Lakers’ star LeBron James tweeted following the league’s announcement.
“Man we cancelling sporting events, school, office work, etc etc. What we really need to cancel is 2020,” he wrote on Twitter. “Damn it’s been a rough 3 months. God bless and stay safe!”
Major conferences have canceled their college basketball tournaments, which were already underway, as did the NCAA.
States roll out restrictions in response to virus
Hoping to contain the spread in the US, two states implemented restrictions on large gatherings and another moved to isolate infected people in a state park. Miami-Dade County is suspending all mass gatherings, including a youth fair, tennis tournament, a 5K, events at AmericanAirlines Arena and NASCAR races, officials said.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee banned events with more than 250 people across the state’s three largest counties.
In Georgia, which saw its number of cases nearly double in two days, officials transferred a coronavirus patient to a state park for isolation, CNN affiliate WSB reported. The patient “was not able to isolate in their primary residence and was not in critical condition requiring any hospital admittance,” the governor’s office said in a statement to the news station Wednesday.
California health officials said all public gatherings should be postponed or canceled until at least the end of March, the governor’s office said in a statement.
Nonessential gatherings should be limited to fewer than 250 people, and gatherings including higher-risk individuals should be limited to up to 10 people, “while also following social distancing guidelines,” the statement said.
“Not holding that concert or community event can have cascading effects — saving dozens of lives and preserving critical health care resources that your family may need a month from now,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown also announced all gatherings of 250 or more people will be canceled — as will nonessential school-related gatherings like parent meetings and field trips — for four weeks in hopes of stemming the virus’ spread. New Mexico is banning gatherings of 100 or more people in a single room.
Universities give students days to leave
Universities including Harvard, Yale, Duke, Princeton and Cornell said they would be conducting lessons online.
“Harvard College students have been asked to move out of their Houses and First-Year Dorms by Sunday, March 15, in an effort to de-densify our community,” university spokeswoman Rachael Dane told CNN in an email.
For returning students, the president wrote, “Please pack your belongings and make plans to travel home or to another location off-campus as if you do not expect to return here until the fall semester.”
CNN’s Akanksha Sharma contributed to this report.