US, Europe split on virus response
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Virus cases are surging across Europe and many U.S. states, but responses by leaders are miles apart, with officials in Ireland, France and elsewhere imposing curfews and restricting gatherings even as some U.S. governors resist mask mandates or more aggressive measures.
The stark contrasts in efforts to contain infections come as outbreaks on both sides of the Atlantic raise similar alarms, including shrinking availability of hospital beds and rising deaths.
Governors of states including Tennessee, Oklahoma, Nebraska and North Dakota are all facing calls from doctors and public health officials to require masks.
In Utah, a spike in cases since school reopened has created a dynamic that Republican Gov. Gary Herbert has called “unsustainable.”
But Herbert, who has been pressured by an outspoken contingent of residents opposed to masks, has resisted a statewide mandate. Instead, he announced last week that they would be required only in six counties with the highest infection rates, while leaving it to others to make their own rules. Meanwhile, many hospitals are being pushed to the breaking point.
New virus cases in the U.S. have surged in recent weeks from a daily average of about 42,000 in early October to about 58,000 — the highest level since late July, according to Johns Hopkins University.
A surge in new cases prompted a change of heart Monday from the mayor of Fargo, North Dakota, about a mask mandate.
Mayor Tim Mahoney, who is also a general surgeon, had been largely supportive of Republican Gov. Doug Burgum’s approach of leaving management of the virus to local officials. Mahoney, himself, cast the deciding vote against a city mask mandate early this month.
But with North Dakota leading the nation in new cases and up to one in four local tests for the virus coming back positive, Mahoney said a statewide change is in order. Late Monday, he also reversed course on a local measure, mandating that city residents wear masks when they’re in close proximity to people other than family members. There is no penalty for non-compliance.
The dynamic contrasts sharply with Europe, where national officials are battling similar spikes with measures including new lockdowns and smart phone apps that track the virus’ spread.
In Ireland, Prime Minister Micheal Martin announced a lockdown starting at midnight Wednesday that will close all non-essential stores, limit restaurants to carryout service and require people to stay within three miles of their homes, while banning visits to other households.
It marks a near-return to restrictions imposed by the government in March, although schools, construction sites and manufacturing industries will remain open. If people comply with the restrictions, which will be in place until Dec. 1, the country will be able to celebrate Christmas “in a meaningful way,” Martin said.
But as cases surge, some decisions by European leaders to impose new restrictions are facing stiff opposition at the local level. After a tense faceoff, Britain’s government said Tuesday it had failed to reach agreement with Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, who has rejected tough new measures without money to support the workers and businesses that will be most affected.