NEW YORK (REUTERS) - After more than 100 days of a coronavirus lockdown, New York City residents on Monday (June 22) celebrated the lifting of more restrictions by getting their first haircuts in months, shopping at reopened stores, and dining at outdoor cafes.
Once the epicentre of the global outbreak, the city was the last region in New York state to move into Phase 2 of reopening with restaurants and bars offering outdoor service and many shops reopening. Barber shops and hair salons welcomed customers for the first time since mid-March, with some fully booked for the next two weeks.
Playgrounds were also due to reopen on Monday in the most populous US city.
The pandemic has killed more than 120,000 Americans and is flaring up in a dozen states that reported record increases in cases last week.
At the height of the outbreak, New York City’s usually bustling streets were deserted and nights were filled with the wailing of ambulance sirens. On its worst days, New York state was losing 1,000 lives a day, hospitals were overwhelmed and bodies filled makeshift morgues.
On Monday it reported 10 deaths from the coronavirus.
The usual traffic jams clogged streets and the sound of honking cars brought a welcome normalcy
Customers wearing face coverings lined up outside Clementine Bakery in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant on Monday, and a few enjoyed the warm summer morning sipping iced coffee at scattered tables on the sidewalk.
“It feels like my life is starting to get back to normal a little bit. It feels really nice the fact that I can sit and have a coffee,” said Arden Katine, 34, a teacher who lives nearby.
The soaring outbreak in other states worried New York Governor Andrew Cuomo who said he was talking with neighboring states about putting restrictions on travellers from areas with high transmissions such as Arizona and Florida. Earlier this year, Florida ordered arriving New Yorkers to self-quarantine for two weeks.
“It’s more effective if we act as a regional collaboration, and I’m talking to them about putting in guidelines so we don’t have people coming from these other states,” Cuomo told MSNBC.
While new cases in New York and New Jersey are at record lows with 1%-2% of tests coming back positive, a dozen states in the South and Southwest United States reported record increases in new coronavirus cases. In some, 10% to 20% of people tested positive. The same states often reported record hospitalizations, a metric not affected by more testing.
The number of new cases rose by a record last week in Arizona, California, Florida and Texas, together home to about a third of the U.S. population. Alabama, Georgia, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah and Wyoming also experienced record spikes.
Seeking a second White House term in a Nov 3 election, President Donald Trump travels to Arizona on Tuesday for a Phoenix youth gathering. Trump held his first political rally in months on Saturday at a partly empty arena in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Health experts have warned people to avoid large gatherings and wear masks but few took that advice in Tulsa.
Trump initially dismissed the threat of the coronavirus and sparred with state governors as they tried to slow its spread. His approval ratings have since dropped, and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden now leads him by 13 points.
According to the latest Reuters/Ipsos poll, 76% of Americans remain concerned about the spread of Covid-19.