Post-virus, wearing masks will be the ‘new normal’ in US
State governors preparing public for routine wearing of face masks once stay-home restrictions ease
NEW YORK : The death toll from the coronavirus pandemic in the US approached 31,000 on Wednesday as governors began cautiously preparing Americans for a post-virus life that would likely include public face coverings as the "new normal".
The governors of Connecticut, Maryland, New York and Pennsylvania each issued orders or recommendations that residents wear face masks as they emerge from isolation in the coming weeks.
"If you are going to be in public and you cannot maintain social distancing, then have a mask, and put that mask on," said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat.
Similar orders were imposed in New Jersey and Los Angeles last week and face coverings were recommended by Kansas Governor Laura Kelly on Tuesday. California Governor Gavin Newsom has said residents across the nation's most-populous state would likely be wearing masks in public for some time to come.
"We are going to be getting back to normal; it will be a new normal," Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont said, echoing a phrase used by at least two of his fellow governors in recent days.
US Midwest governors were also making plans together to restart their economies, said Ms Jordan Abudayyeh, a spokesman for Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker.
In Michigan, hundreds of cars flooded the streets around the state Capitol in Lansing on Wednesday to protest Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer's stay-at-home orders, some of the strictest in the country.
Some protesters, in the demonstration organised by conservative groups that support President Donald Trump, left their cars to gather on the lawn in front of the Capitol building, many of them not wearing masks or practising social distancing.
As of Wednesday night, 30,953 people in the US had died of Covid-19, according to a Reuters tally. More than 637,700 have been infected.
That includes more than 4,000 deaths newly attributed to the disease in New York City after health officials revised their counting methods to include "probable", but unconfirmed, cases.
Washington state Governor Jay Inslee told an afternoon news conference the largest obstacle to a return to normalcy was a shortage of tests.
"We simply haven't had enough test kits - they simply do not exist anywhere in the United States right now," Mr Inslee said, adding the state had purchased about a million swabs, along with vials and test medium but they were just starting to arrive.
Yesterday Mr Trump said he plans to announce new guidelines to reopen the economy.
States' orders have crushed the economy to levels not seen since the Great Depression nearly a century ago.
More than 20 million Americans have sought unemployment benefits amid shuttered stores and restaurants, including another 5.2 million who filed for aid in the past week, pushing the US unemployment rate to 8.2 per cent.
The President was scheduled to hold a call with the state governors at 3pm (3am today, Singapore time) and said he would announce his plan later.
On Wednesday, Mr Trump said data suggested new cases have peaked and that industry leaders in a round of calls offered him good insights into how to safely restart the economy.
But the head of a major union warned the president not to reopen unless worker safety can be ensured, and chief executives from some of the nation's biggest companies told Mr Trump more testing was needed to guarantee safety, according to multiple media reports.- REUTERS