Now, Texas and several other states with rising cases are scrambling. Many of the states that have seen recent spikes are run by Republicans who were initially reluctant to shut down, but not all of them. In North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, this week paused further reopenings for three weeks and ordered residents to wear masks in public. In Nevada, Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, said that “any discussion of entering Phase 3 will be tabled.”
And in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican who has been defiantly against shutting his state back down, said he did not intend to move to the next phase of reopening. “We never anticipated necessarily doing anything different in terms of the next phase at this point anyways,” he said on Thursday in Tampa. “We are where we are.”
The worrying surge of cases has proved to be a test for states that decided reopening early was a necessary risk in order to save jobs.
“It hasn’t worked out as they planned,” said Kent Smetters, the director of the Penn Wharton Budget Model at the University of Pennsylvania, which is analyzing the impact of government policies on coronavirus deaths and the economy. “By reopening, they have seen cases go up, and they have made a lot of people scared” to visit restaurants and other businesses, he said, adding that “people’s confidence is the key driver in this.”
The situation is perhaps most urgent in Texas, the nation’s second-largest state, which was under one of the shortest stay-at-home orders when Mr. Abbott, a Republican, decided to reopen the state in phases on May 1.
The virus has since spread rapidly in Houston, San Antonio, Austin, Dallas and other large cities in all regions of the state. Total known cases have topped 100,000, and on Wednesday, the state recorded its most new cases in a single day, with more than 6,200 new infections.
“The governor’s plan was always predicated on a very high rate of voluntary compliance with things like wearing masks and socially distancing,” said Mayor Eric Johnson of Dallas, a Democrat, who has been pushing for a statewide mask policy. “I think what we’re seeing is that was a miscalculation.”