Crowds of sun seekers escape to the outdoors to go tubing in Texas and Colorado

Lauren Fruen

Sun seekers have begun to escape outdoors after COVID-19 lockdown orders were lifted across the United States, despite warnings more than 290,000 Americans could die if social distancing isn’t adhered to. 

Crowds were pictured floating down the Comal River in New Braunfels on Wednesday, with many Texans emerging out of their homes to get some fresh air.   

In Colorado residents were urged to celebrate the Memorial Day weekend responsibly after footage from Boulder Creek showed large groups, not in masks, gathered there Tuesday. 

And in New York City revelers hit the streets to drink outside bars as temperatures rose on Wednesday night.

One tuber in Colorado told CBS: ‘We heard it was going to be 90 degrees out today so we thought it would be a great day to go out to the creek. I’d say we’re not too worried about it.’As college students I think there is a lot of intermingling going on most of the time.’

In Texas Samuel Morrell told KSAT earlier this month: ‘America’s going back to work. We’re going tubing. I think it’s beneficial to everyone’s mental health. I think just sitting in the house all is not good.’ 

But one COVID-19 forecast model predicts infections could reach as high as 5.4 million in the US in the next two months with more than 290,000 deaths if social distancing isn’t adhered to.  Currently, there are more than 1.5 million cases and over 93,000 deaths across the United States.

The ominous forecast from the University Of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School model accounts for all states fully reopening without any social distancing measures. 

A paddle boarder passed tubers as they float the Comal River in New Braunfels, on Wednesday

As parks reopen following closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many Texans are returning to the outdoors

Crowds were pictured float down the Comal River in New Braunfels on Wednesday. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott said social distancing measures must still be in place, such as limits on customers and no fans at sports events 

In comparison, the model predicts nearly 4.3 million cases and 230,000 deaths by July 24 if states reopen but individuals maintain their social distancing efforts.

If states only partially reopen by lifting stay-at-home orders but social distancing measures are still adhered to, the model forecasts 3.1 million infections and 172,000 deaths.

The best case scenario, which would involve each state maintaining lockdown restrictions as of May 17 with social distancing measures still in place, there could still be 2.8 million infections and 157,000 deaths.  

The majority of US states had already lifted COVID-19 lockdown restrictions by mid-May.      

New York City has now got a low enough daily death rate and daily hospitalization rate to reopen but it continues to be held back by the lack of hospital beds, ICU beds and contact tracers that have to be hired.

Seven of the state’s ten regions are now reopening because they have met Cuomo’s requirements. 

The city needs another 600 or so hospital beds to free up before it hits the target of having 30 percent of the system free. It is four percent off having enough ICU beds.  

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott gave permission Monday to reopen practically every facet of daily life in Texas, including bars and child daycare centers, lifting most full lockdown orders as the state continues one of the nation’s swiftest reboots from coronavirus restrictions.

Abbott’s sweeping new orders, which he described as a second phase in Texas’ reopening, allows zoos and bowling alleys to resume business and lets restaurants and retailers expand the number of customers by the end of the week. They also set up the return of some professional sports, summer camps and summer school by June.

Abbott said social distancing measures must still be in place, such as limits on customers and no fans at sports events. Theme parks, however, remain closed.

In Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and state health officials on Wednesday urged residents to celebrate the Memorial Day weekend responsibly by sticking to existing social distancing restrictions, wearing masks and staying in groups of 10 or fewer people to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

‘This isn’t exactly a normal Memorial Day weekend. It’s a Memorial Day weekend in the middle of a worldwide pandemic,’ Polis said. ‘It’s not the time for big family reunions and massive cookouts and celebrations’ but about ‘solemnly honoring the fallen.’

In New York City revelers hit the streets to drink outside bars as temperatures rose on Wednesday night

Coronavirus infections could reach as high as 5.4 million in the US in the next two months and more than 290,000 Americans could die if social distancing isn’t adhered to, according to a COVID-19 forecast model. NYC pictured Wednesday 

The best case scenario, which would involve each state maintaining lockdown restrictions as of May 17 with social distancing measures still in place, there could still be 2.8 million infections and 157,000 deaths. NYC is pictured Wednesday 

Boulder County Health Executive Director, Jeff Zayach, said: ‘I know it’s been difficult, but the video of people clearly gathering along the creek not only shows groups larger than 10 people, but there was also not adequate social distancing. 

‘Situations like these not only violate the state and local public health orders, but they put our whole community, our businesses, and our economy at risk. Please remember that it takes up to 14 days before we see who will become sick and spread the disease from this large gathering of people along the creek. 

‘Please take this virus seriously and limit gatherings to 10 people or less and remain at least six feet from each other. Individual actions are putting our businesses and our most vulnerable in the community at further risk.’

Colorado has reopened campgrounds and transitioned from a stay-at-home to ‘safer-at-home’ directive that has eased restrictions on retail businesses while urging residents to limit travel. It has flattened the growth curve of the virus and guaranteed there are enough intensive care beds at hospitals to treat the sick.      

Texas reported 1,411 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday as the total cases reported since the state’s first one was reported March 17 climbed to 51,323. The state reported 50 new deaths, bringing the overall death toll to 1,419, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. 

Abbott’s sweeping new orders, which he described as a second phase in Texas’ reopening, allows zoos and bowling alleys to resume business and lets restaurants and retailers expand the number of customers by the end of the week. They also set up the return of some professional sports, summer camps and summer school by June

In Texas Samuel Morrell told KSAT earlier this month: ‘America’s going back to work. We’re going tubing. I think it’s beneficial to everyone’s mental health. I think just sitting in the house all is not good.’ Tubers float the Comal River Wednesday

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott gave permission Monday to reopen practically every facet of daily life in Texas, including bars and child daycare centers, lifting most full lockdown orders as the state continues one of the nation’s swiftest reboots from coronavirus restrictions. Tubers float the Comal River in New Braunfels, Wednesday

The reopening of Texas pushes one of the world’s largest economies toward getting back to business as usual, even while the state has seen record numbers of daily new coronavirus cases and deaths. But Abbott has emphasized hospitalization rates that remain flat and infection rates that have dropped, even after Texas began lifting stay-at-home orders on May 1.

‘We’ve seen no evidence, no signs, that raise any concerns about a possibility of retrenchment in Texas,’ Abbott said.

Abbott did keep broad restrictions in two parts of Texas that are struggling with a surge of new cases, El Paso and Amarillo, for an additional week. He said the delay would give surge teams more time to get the flare-up of new cases under control.

He said he can further push Texas open because the state has boosted daily testing and has seen a drop in the percentage of new cases. That infection rate was as high as 13 percent in mid-April and has dropped under 5 percent in recent days, according to state health officials.

Abbott also said the state has good hospital capacity and personal protective equipment to handle any dramatic increase in cases.

Texas reported 1,411 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday as the total cases reported since the state’s first one was reported March 17 climbed to 51,323. The state reported 50 new deaths, bringing the overall death toll to 1,419, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services

The reopening of Texas pushes one of the world’s largest economies toward getting back to business as usual, even while the state has seen record numbers of daily new coronavirus cases and deaths

Under Abbott’s order, childcare facilities can reopen immediately. Restaurants will be able to open at 50 percent capacity on Friday — an increase from the current 25 percent — and bars, which had remained closed, to open at 25 percent. Bowling alleys will be allowed to open at 25 percent.

By June, youth sports and other camps will be allowed to open, and professional sports, including auto racing, golf, softball and tennis leagues can apply with the state to host events without spectators.

Theme parks are still being evaluated, Abbott said. Schools, which had been closed for the rest of the spring semester, can make plans to reopen for summer school with social distancing guidelines for in-person instruction. Universities can also reopen campus for the summer with similar guidelines. The order did not mention planning for college sports.

Democrats, including the mayors of several of the state’s largest cities, have criticized the plan as moving too fast, too soon.

‘The people in the city of Houston we want things to open up. We want the economy to open up. We want people back on their jobs,’ said Mayor Sylvester Turner, a Democrat. ‘I probably would choose a different pace than what he has chosen … My only hope and prayer is that several weeks from now, we are not going to see a spike occur.’

Few states have moved faster to reopen than Texas, where Abbott has warned that the numbers of new cases would rise as the state reopened and that has borne out. A nine-day streak of at least 1,000 new daily cases that ended Sunday saw the one-day infection rate hit a record-high of 1,801 on Saturday. The 110 deaths over last Thursday and Friday was easily the highest two-day fatality rate since the virus was first detected in the state.

The state reported 909 new cases Monday in about 30,000 new tests. Eleven new deaths were the lowest in a single day since March 31 when there were four. Mondays have typically been when the fewest new cases are reported.

Democrats, including the mayors of several of Texas’ largest cities, have criticized the plan as moving too fast, too soon

State officials said the surge in new infections came after 700 cases were reported in the Amarillo area where Texas has sent a response team to try to contain a growing spread at meat-packing plants.

‘When we increase testing in hotspots the number of people testing positive is going to spike,’ Abbott said. ‘We will be prepared to deal with spikes.’

 Democratic leaders of Texas’ largest cities have worried the reopening is happening too quickly as the state sees a surge in deaths and cases of COVID-19. But Abbott has defended the plan by noting that Texas is ramping up testing and contact tracing, and that the daily rate of infection has dropped under 5%.

In Colorado residents were urged to celebrate the Memorial Day weekend responsibly after footage from Boulder Creek showed large groups not in masks gathered there Tuesday

On reveler said: ‘We heard it was going to be 90 degrees out today so we thought it would be a great day to go out to the creek. As college students I think there is a lot of intermingling going on most of the time’

University of Texas students will return to campus for the fall semester with classes from late August until Thanksgiving, and finals to be conducted online after the holiday, the school announced said Wednesday.

In Colorado Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director of the Department of Public Health and Environment, said their progress can easily be undone. 

Colorado, Ryan said, is ‘a victim of our own success’ in flattening that curve. ‘But we are not out of the woods,’ she said. ‘The disease can easily get away from us.’

Ryan and other top health officials said Colorado’s top priorities include keeping those hospital beds open, getting students back to school in the fall, and preventing a second wave of the coronavirus during the November-to-March flu season.

The state has allowed 14 counties to adopt more liberal restrictions than state standards and is considering more requests, Ryan said. The Colorado School of Public Health estimates nearly 3 per cent of the state’s population has had the virus, she added.

More than 1,200 people in Colorado have died because of the virus or while having it, and more than 22,000 have tested positive, the state says.  


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