Governors bring back severe coronavirus lockdowns, tighten restrictions as cases hit record highs

U.S. faces coronavirus surge heading into holiday season

Dr. Ashish Jha reacts to the surge in coronavirus cases and how the vaccine may be ready for all Americans by April.

As coronavirus cases across the United States surge to their highest levels since the pandemic began and colder weather sets in, worrying experts about more people gathering inside for the holidays, governors in several states are reinstating lockdown measures to stem the spread of the virus. 

The lockdowns include some of the most draconian measures from earlier this year, putting severe restrictions on where Americans can go, how they can worship and even whom they can see. 

Washington bans wakes and funeral receptions and caps funerals at 30 people. It also requires youth sports to only hold intra-squad practices where masks are mandated "at all times."

Oregon bans indoor gatherings larger than six people from more than two households. 

Michigan required a halt in in-person classes for high schools and colleges, and gatherings, including for Thanksgiving, are limited to people from just two households. 

Several states are mandating remote work as much as possible, bringing back a feature from the early stages of the pandemic. 

"To our workers and businesses – I know this hurts. We do not take lightly the impact of these restrictions," Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said of his state's order. "But this much is clear: We cannot enjoy a full economic recovery before we have gotten this virus under control."

The orders come after a summer and fall which saw many measures being lifted, buoying the economy as the pandemic continued and many Americans tired of staying in their homes. Some have termed this phenomenon "pandemic fatigue." 

Some, however, are opposing the lockdowns and saying that they do more harm than good. 

"The lockdown absolutists think those of us who aren’t are idiots who 'don’t believe' in the virus," said Bethany Mandel, an editor at Ricochet. "I believe in it. I know dozens of people who have had it. I recognize the risk. I will not destroy our society or hide inside for over a year because I’m afraid of it."

Meanwhile, a light at the end of the tunnel has apparently emerged with significant vaccine progress after Moderna announced on Monday that its COVID-19 vaccine candidate is more than 94% effective. The news comes a week after Pfizer and BioNTech said their vaccine candidate is more than 90% effective.

Moncef Slaoui, the head of Operation Warp Speed, said in a Rose Garden press conference Friday that some Americans could begin receiving the vaccine in December. But even after that, the virus is likely to continue spreading until most Americans are able to get vaccinated. 

On Sunday Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who earlier this year was one of the most aggressive governors in instituting lockdown measures, brought back some of the major elements of the previous lockdowns, including a halt to in-person schooling.

"The situation has never been more dire. We are at the precipice and we need to take some action," Whitmer said. 

High schools and colleges may not offer in-person classes in Michigan. Dining in at restaurants, which was previously limited to half capacity, must stop. Gatherings are limited to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors. 

Ice rinks, arcades, bowling alleys and organized sports besides professional and some college-level athletics are required to halt as well. 

An in a feature of early lockdown measures, workplaces are required to go to remote-work when they are able to.

"In the spring, we listened to public health experts and saved thousands of lives together," Whitmer said in a tweet. "I am personally asking each and every one of you to channel that same energy and do everything in your power to protect our communities from this virus and save lives again."

Also in the Midwest, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum issued a state mask mandate and partial shutdown. Burgum had for months, even as cases rose in his state and experts called on further measures, resisted such mandates while encouraging personal responsibility and citizens to "find your why" to wear a mask. 

"Our situation has changed, and we must change with it," Burgum said in a video address released late on Friday night. "To be clear, these are statewide requirements, not simply recommendations." 

Among the requirements of an enforceable mask mandate with an undefined penalty of an "infraction," a 10 p.m. curfew for in-person dining and bars, a 25% capacity for event venues and the suspension of winter high school sports. 

Some in the state said the measures are long overdue. 

"I want to congratulate the governor for making the right decision. I know there have been multiple interests at play in making this decision and that it was not easy," North Dakota American Academy of Pediatrics President Kathy Anderson said, according to KX News. 

Across the country, New Mexico and Oregon have also instituted shutdowns. 


New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham closed statewide in-person services for non-essential activities starting Nov. 16. It will last for two weeks, although that may be extended.

"New Mexico's COVID-19 hospitalizations have once again reached a frightening record high, totaling 506," Grisham said in a tweet Sunday. "Our two-week reset goes into effect tomorrow. Please do everything you can to prevent additional illness & save lives. Stay home – if you must go out, please wear your mask."

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown issued a similar order, called a “Two-Week Freeze.” Starting Nov. 18., most indoor facilities, such as gyms and restaurants will close, and indoor capacity for essential services such as grocery stores and pharmacies will be limited.

Indoor gatherings are also limited to six people from a maximum of two households and religious services are capped at 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors. 

Businesses in Oregon must also mandate work-from-home "to the greatest extent possible."

"This situation is dangerous and our hospitals have been sounding the alarms. If we want to give Oregon a fighting chance, we must take further measures to flatten the curve and save lives," Brown said in a press release last week of measures that will take effect Wednesday. 

Inslee also instituted more measures in Washington.

"Today is the most dangerous public health day in the last 100 years of our state’s history. A pandemic is raging in Washington. Today, we are taking action to stop it," the Washington governor said. 

The Washington restrictions take effect Monday and ban all in-person gatherings with people from outside of a household, limits outdoor gatherings to five when they include people from different households, bans indoor foodservice and caps religious gatherings at 25% capacity or 200 people, "whichever is fewer."

Washington also bans indoor funeral receptions and wakes, while capping funeral ceremonies at 30 people. Businesses in Washington must also mandate work-from-home policies. Youth sports are banned except for outdoor practices, where facial coverings are required for "all coaches, volunteers and athletes at all times."

"Fauci has been saying for months to expect to social distance and mask into 2022. It’s why 'just skip this thanksgiving' or 'just deal with part-time school for now is scary naïveté that literally ignores our top scientist’s words," New York Post columnist Karol Markowicz said on Twitter, reacting to a clip of Dr. Anthony Fauci advocating social distancing and masks for those who are vaccinated. 

"We have to, ahem, listen to scientists and plan for living with this for another 18-24 months, at least," Markowicz added. "So now do you think it’s ok to skip seeing your family? Is it ok to have years of basically no school?"

According to Johns Hopkins University numbers, new reported cases in the United States have exceeded 100,000 in recent days with a daily high of more than 177,000 reported in one day last week. 

Fox News Peter Aitken and The Associated Press contributed to this report.  

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