US coronavirus cases hit 11 million as two states announce new restrictions

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By Euronews  with AP
File photo: Medical works operate a testing tent at a COVID-19 mobile testing site in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Nov. 11, 2020.
File photo: Medical works operate a testing tent at a COVID-19 mobile testing site in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Nov. 11, 2020.   -  Copyright  John Minchillo/AP

Michigan and Washington on Sunday joined several other states in announcing renewed efforts to combat COVID-19 as more than 11 million cases of the virus have now been reported in the United States.

The most recent million cases came in less than a week, as many Americans prepared to observe a Thanksgiving holiday marked by the pandemic.

Michigan Gov Gretchen Whitmer’s administration ordered high schools and colleges to stop in-person classes, closed restaurants to indoor dining and suspended organized sports — including the football playoffs — in an attempt to curb the state’s spiking case numbers. 

The order also restricts indoor and outdoor residential gatherings, closes some entertainment facilities and bans gyms from hosting group exercise classes.

The new rules, set to last three weeks, are extensive but not as sweeping the Democratic governor’s stay-at-home order this past spring when she faced criticism from a Republican-led Legislature that refused to extend the state’s coronavirus emergency declaration and authorized a lawsuit challenging Whitmer’s authority to combat the pandemic. 

She faced pushback from those who opposed the decision to toughen rather than relax what already was one of the nation’s strictest stay-at-home orders.

“The situation has never been more dire,” Whitmer, who authorities say also was the target of a kidnapping plot spurred on by anger over her earlier virus measures, said at a Sunday evening news conference. “We are at the precipice and we need to take some action.”

The directives from Michigan come on the same day that Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced the state would enforce new restrictions on businesses and social gatherings for the next month as it, too, continued to combat a rising number of cases.

Starting Tuesday, gyms and some entertainment centres in Washington will be required to close their indoor services. 

Shops, including grocery stores, will be ordered to limit indoor capacity and multiple-household, indoor social gatherings will be prohibited unless attendees have quarantined for 14 days or tested negative for COVID-19 and quarantined for a week. By Wednesday, restaurants and bars will again be limited to outdoor dining and to-go service.

The actions also follow grim milestones passed by Texas and California last week as the states each marked more than 1 million confirmed COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic.

In Texas, sporting events were cancelled and at least one city added mobile morgues in anticipation of hospital-overwhelming virus deaths. 

Meanwhile, in California, the nation’s most populous state and the first one to issue a statewide stay-at-home order, officials urged those planning holiday gatherings to take strict precautions, including keeping visits small, outdoors and under two hours long

Health experts and officials across the nation are now cautioning people to forego or revise gatherings and holiday travel plans as Thanksgiving and winter celebrations approach.

As of Sunday, Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracker reached 11 million after topping 10 million cases on November 9 — with the most recent million coming in just six days. 

It took 300 days for the US to hit the 11 million mark since the first case was diagnosed in Washington state on January 20.