Gov. Gavin Newsom has asked coroners to review California cases dating to December after new autopsies this week revealed that two people in the state died of coronavirus in early and mid-February — up to three weeks before the first known US death from the virus at the time.
“We are doing the same across the state and in other counties as well to ultimately help guide a deeper understanding of when this pandemic really started to impact Californians directly,” Newsom said Wednesday.
In Indiana, officials are tracking cases going back to at least mid-February — weeks before the state announced its first case in early March.
“We’re going to do our absolute very best to identify every death that we think was associated with Covid-19 and make sure that we appropriately count that number,” state health commissioner Dr. Kristina Box said. “There will be individuals that never hit the hospital system that may very well have had Covid-19.”
California is one of the hardest-hit states with more than 1,400 deaths while Indiana has more than 650 deaths.
Indiana should expect to see a total increase of less than 100 deaths due to the review effort, Box said. Newsom said there would be “subsequent” announcements as the state works to determine the early origins of the virus.
Governors and mayors are feuding over reopening
The pandemic has hit the US especially hard, leading to stay-home orders in more than 40 states to limit the spread of the disease.
The decision to reopen some states even as coronavirus deaths linger is pitting governors against mayors in some of the largest cities.
The state’s key leader did not share her enthusiasm. “We are clearly not ready to open,” Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak told CNN.
The power to reopen the casinos belongs to the Nevada Gaming Control Board, which has put out guidelines for them once the state’s stay-at-home order is lifted.
Trump is at odds with his key ally
In Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp made the most aggressive move yet to reopen the state economy by allowing businesses such as barbershops, nail salons, bowling alleys and gyms to reopen Friday.
Trump initially applauded the decision by one of his key allies, a source said, then criticized it during his daily coronavirus briefing Wednesday.
“I disagree with him on what he’s doing but I want to let the governors do (what they want),” the President said.
The mayor of Georgia’s largest city said the decision to reopen left her puzzled.
“I have searched my head and my heart on this and I am at a loss as to what the governor is basing this decision on,” said Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, a Democrat.
She said she’s considering legal options, adding that Atlanta is still struggling with an epidemic that has left about 850 people dead across the state.
“You have to live to fight another day. And you have to be able to be amongst the living to be able to recover,” she said
The mayors of Augusta and Savannah have also criticized the move to reopen.
“When you should go back to business is when you have some true indicators over two weeks that show a deceleration of the pandemic,” Benjamin said, referring to one of the White House’s criteria for reopening state economies. “We need more testing. We need more data, and then we can decide how we go back into business.”
Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg defended the governor, saying he thought his reopening plan was “a measured response” that took safety and social distancing into account. “It’s not like he opened the barn door and everything flies out,” Tecklenburg said
Local leaders have had similar complaints in Florida.
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and Tampa Mayor Jane Castor have urged Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to base his decision to reopen on science and data.
Not so fast, experts warn states
A coronavirus model routinely cited by the White House warns that no state should be opening before May 1.
South Carolina and Georgia should not open until June 5 and June 19, respectively, according to the model by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. Some business owners have said they’ll keep their doors closed despite governors’ decisions.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, warned Kemp to be careful.
“Going ahead and leapfrogging into phases where you should not be, I would advise him, as a health official and a physician, not to do that,” Fauci said.
About half the states in the country should remain closed until May 25 or later, according to the model. The reopening dates are based on an assumption that states will have other measures in place — aggressive testing, contact tracing, isolation, limits on the size of gatherings — to prevent another wave of the virus.
While governors in Arizona and California have not announced reopening dates, they’re letting hospitals perform elective or scheduled surgeries again.
CNN’s Sarah Moon, Ralph Ellis, Christina Maxouris, Eliott C. McLaughlin and Arman Azad contributed to this report.