On Wednesday, Connecticut became the final state to begin lifting restrictions, now allowing retail shops and restaurants to reopen their doors.

Despite the reopening milestone, health officials say, Americans remain at risk of catching the highly transmissible and sometimes deadly virus.

Across the US, more than 1,528,500 people have tested positive for the virus and at least 91,921 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University.

“The only thing that was keeping this very contagious virus in check was each of us keeping that physical distance,” Dr. Leana Wen, the former Baltimore City Health Commissioner, told CNN’s Don Lemon Tuesday night. “So if we’re going to let people go to work and reopen, we are going to be introducing risk of some kind. The key is what are the steps we can take to reduce that risk as much as possible?”

States have moved at vastly different paces as governors balance reopening their economies with keeping residents safe and new cases down. Some states, including Georgia and Texas rolled out aggressive reopening plans, while others have taken a more measured approach.

For instance, states including New York, California and Pennsylvania have allowed the parts of their state reporting declines in new coronavirus cases to reopen even as other areas remain closed.

Many cities across the country also remain under stay-at-home orders. In Baltimore, Maryland, gatherings of more than 10 people are still prohibited and retail stores remain closed.
Last month, the White House issued guidance to help states plan for reopening, but the measures were not required and governors were left to make their own decisions. On Tuesday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released 60 pages of detailed guidance on how to reopen the country — including road maps for schools, restaurants, transit and child care facilities.

Six feet may not be enough

Experts have warned that lifting restrictions prematurely may mean thousands more Americans will die and could bring a second spike in cases in parts of the country.

The responsibility now lies with individuals to adhere to guidelines, practice safe social distancing and adapt to new habits to keep themselves and those around them safe.

But new research shows that a cornerstone of that guidance — staying six feet away from others in public — might not be enough to protect against contracting the virus.

A computer model showed the little particles of mucus and saliva people eject when they cough or sneeze could theoretically travel further than six feet — and with the help of a light breeze, as far as 18 feet.

It’s something to consider when setting up social distancing recommendations, said Dimitris Drikakis, an engineering professor at the University of Nicosia in Cyprus, who created the model along with his colleague Talib Dbouk.

“The work is based on modeling. We have not done experiments with people,” Drikakis told CNN.

Writing in the journal Physics of Fluids, Drikakis and Dbouk said their computer models suggested that current recommendations that people keep six feet apart might not provide safety under certain outdoor conditions.

“At a mild human cough in the air at 20 degrees C (68 degrees F) and 50% relative humidity, we found that human saliva-disease-carrier droplets may travel up to unexpected considerable distances depending on the wind speed,” Drikakis said.

Churches push to reopen

As new insights into the virus continue to unfold and while public health officials caution against crowded indoor activities, churches across the US have begun pushing to open their doors back up.

In North Carolina, after a federal judge struck down an order from the governor disallowing indoor services, some churches welcomed their congregations back in. CNN affiliate WTVD reported about 100 people walked into a Raleigh church this week.
A pastor in northern California who defied orders from the church’s county and held a livestream service with singing has now been diagnosed with the virus. At least three confirmed cases have been linked to the event, Mendocino County said.

And in Mississippi, services have been discouraged, but the governor had deemed places of worship “essential services and never officially shut down.”

“I did personally ask pastors to pause in-person services so that they could keep their flocks safe. I want to help those pastors to safely resume in-person services,” Gov. Tate Reeves said on Facebook.

CNN”s Gisela Crespo, Maggie Fox, Jennifer Henderson, Sara Turnbull and Jamiel Lynch contributed to this report.

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