It’s the ultimate weapon of pandemic response: the stay-home order that shuts down businesses and isolates individuals.

On Thursday, public officials across the U.S. warned they will wield it again if people don’t immediately act to halt the resurgent coronavirus.

The mayors of Houston, Los Angeles and Miami have floated the prospect, as has a top adviser to the governor of Texas. Millions of Americans could face a second round of lockdowns even as the economy struggles to recover from the first.

Those decisions would be excruciating after the economic devastation wrought by the first round of orders this spring, but they are getting nearer. Case numbers are stubbornly climbing in all but six states, according to data tracked by Johns Hopkins University. On Thursday, Texas posted its worst day of fatalities, 129, and recorded more than 10,000 new cases for a third-straight day. Florida posted a record 156 new deaths.

In the absence of a national strategy, state and local officials keep pushing familiar -- and thus far ineffective -- preventive measures, but many said they are running out of soft options. They raise the prospect of stringent lockdowns to encourage voluntary virtue.

Colorado Governor Jared Polis on Thursday announced a statewide mask order, and said further measures would be unpalatable.

“There’s not a resident of Colorado and there’s not an elected official in Colorado that doesn’t want to do everything they can to avoid having to ever stay at home again for a long period of time,” Polis said.

But a document prepared for the White House Coronavirus Task Force identified 18 states in the “red zone” of fast-rising virus cases, the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit news organization, reported Thursday. Such states, according to the document, should consider mask requirements, closing bars and gyms and limiting social gatherings.

Deaths Rising
With daily case counts now far beyond the first round of infections this spring and deaths rising again after months of decline, officials in some states and cities have already paused reopening efforts, or started rolling them back.

Even in states such as Illinois, which has among the country’s lowest positivity rates, Governor J.B. Pritzker has warned that more restrictions could be on the way if socializing in large groups and avoiding masks leads to a rebound in case counts. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has said she does not want to go backward but will if needed.

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