As states race to reopen, U.S. coronavirus death toll passes 50,000

Coronavirus

As the U.S. moves past 50,000 coronavirus deaths, our team in Washington, D.C. is examining the issues that likely won’t be featured tonight during primetime cable news — including how federal lawmakers are playing a role in the reopening of their states. You can watch our D.C. team’s original reporting in a livestream at 9/8c.

Even as the confirmed U.S. death toll from the coronavirus soared past 50,000, Georgia, Oklahoma and Alaska began loosening lockdown orders Friday on their pandemic-wounded businesses, despite warnings from health experts that the gradual steps toward normalcy might be happening too soon.

Republican governors in Georgia and Oklahoma allowed salons, spas and barbershops to reopen, while Alaska opened the way for restaurants to resume dine-in service and retail shops and other businesses to open their doors, all with limitations. Some Alaska municipalities chose to maintain stricter rules.

Though limited in scope, and subject to social-distancing restrictions, the reopenings marked a symbolic milestone in the debate raging in the United States — and the world — as to how quickly political leaders should lift economically damaging lockdown orders.

Similar scenarios have been playing out worldwide and will soon proliferate in the U.S. as other governors wrestle with conflicting priorities. Their economies have been battered by weeks of quarantine-fueled job losses and soaring unemployment claims, yet health officials warn that lifting stay-at-home orders now could spark a resurgence of COVID-19.

During a White House press briefing Friday, President Donald Trump spoke optimistically of the economy but also asked people to continue social distancing and using face coverings.

“We’re opening our country. It’s very exciting to see,” Trump said.

The coronavirus has killed more than 190,000 people worldwide, including — as of Friday — more than 50,000 in the United States, according to a tally compiled by John Hopkins University from government figures. The actual death toll is believed to be far higher.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)

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