With the reopening of many cities and states, some apparently believe that not wearing a mask is suddenly OK. Well, they’re wrong.

Over the past few weeks, the coronavirus has begun spreading rapidly across the country and the world. Many have stopped following public-health guidance — gathering closely at beaches, in restaurants, bars, churches, gyms and workplaces.

“It has been an awakening,” said Charles Bey, a self-described social justice warrior who is based in southeast D.C.

Bey has participated in much of the demonstrations that have occurred in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd. He observed that while many are wearing masks, they’re often missing something else.

“I don’t see anyone wearing gloves, and folks are touching things and sharing signs and even bullhorns and microphones,” Bey said.

The surge in new cases has led the White House to announce that its virus task force would hold its first briefing in nearly two months.

Some states, including Texas, have paused reopening plans as the virus has spread.

The New York Times reported that younger people are making up a growing percentage of new cases nationwide, threatening plans to reopen schools and resume athletic events.

The infection rate among Latinos in the U.S. is especially high, a sign of the makeup of the essential workforce, the Times reported.

Notably, Al Jazeera reported that U.S. health officials believe as many as 20 million Americans have contracted the coronavirus — nearly 10 times as many infections as the 2.3 million cases that have been confirmed.

Twenty million infections would mean about six percent of America’s 331 million people have been infected.

“It’s a pandemic that our government has, from the start, ignored the importance and dangers,” said Raymond Myers, an associate of Bey who also lives in Southeast. “We always knew that more people had the coronavirus than what the government was reporting. We also know that we can’t trust what’s reported in mainstream news, so when we’re out here [demonstrating] it’s up to us to make sure that we are safe and, like [Bey] said, we have to wear gloves and masks and watch who and what we come in contact with.”

A report issued by Axios, underscored that the country is getting closer to the worst-case scenario envisioned in the spring — a nationwide crisis, made worse by “a vacuum of political leadership, threatening to overwhelm hospitals and spread out of control.”

Their report concluded that cases are up 30 percent nationwide compared to the beginning of this month, and dramatically worsening outbreaks in several states are beginning to strain hospital capacity — the same concern that prompted the nationwide lockdown in the first place.

This is the grimmest map in the eight weeks since Axios began tracking the change in new cases in every state.

More than half the country — 26 states — have seen coronavirus caseloads increase over the past week, including in Arizona (up 77 percent), Michigan (75 percent), Texas (70 percent) and Florida (66 percent).

These steep increases come after weeks of steadily climbing cases or back-and-forth results across the South, Midwest and West Coast.

Only the New York region and parts of New England — the nation’s earliest hot spots — have consistently managed to get their caseloads down throughout May and June, according to the Axios study.

Further, seven states, including Arizona, have set records for the number of people hospitalized with coronavirus, and the percentage of all tests that come back positive is also increasing.

“Going out in public without a mask is like driving drunk,” Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a cardiologist and professor of medicine at George Washington University, told CNN. “If you don’t get hurt, you might kill somebody else.”

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Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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