The coronavirus pandemic is reaching a plateau in some of the hardest-hit U.S. states after public officials imposed unpopular public-health measures, like closing bars and requiring masks.

Now, those officials wonder whether they can force infection rates down again, as they did in the spring -- and this time, make them stick until a vaccine arrives.

Florida on Monday reported 8,892 new coronavirus cases, the fewest since July 7. Texas recorded 5,810 on Sunday, its lowest tally in two weeks. And case counts are falling in Arizona after an alarming spike in June.

“We’ve weathered the big surge,” said Carlos Gimenez, mayor of Miami-Dade County. “We’re now at the crest of this surge, and it looks like maybe -- maybe, and I’m saying maybe -- that it has topped off and that it’s starting to level off and starting to go down.”

Although there have been new flare-ups of infection around the world, in places ranging from Spain to Hong Kong, Americans are still falling ill in much greater numbers than residents of other developed nations. The relative stability doesn’t mean a return to life as usual. The point was driven home Monday when the new season of Major League Baseball was thrown into jeopardy by a raging outbreak among Miami Marlins players. And the mercurial President Donald Trump, who for days had toed a new and sober line on virus safety, once again encouraged governors to reopen their economies.

“My concern is that we will stay in this muddled place,” said Joshua M. Sharfstein, a vice dean at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “The absence of a national strategy is a big problem, because we are a connected country. It is very hard to have 50 different approaches to a single pandemic.”

No Surrender
Trump has refused to formulate a national strategy for fighting the pandemic, instead letting each state chart its own course. But he has made no secret of his desire for a swift economic recovery as the November election looms, a point he repeated Monday. “I really do believe a lot of the governors should be opening up states that they are not opening,” he said during a briefing.

For months, many governors had followed Trump’s lead, resisting stringent public health rules to fight the disease that has killed more than 147,000 Americans. Now, where case counts are leveling off or decreasing, many of those officials credit some of the steps that were so contentious -- wearing masks, maintaining a safe distance from each other, and keeping many kinds of businesses closed.

“We have been in the unhappy but necessary business of breaking up large adult gatherings,” Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, a Republican, said late last week as he extended closure orders on bars and gyms. “That’s where we’re going to be for some time.”

Ducey imposed those restrictions in late June as the pandemic was raging in his state. It’s no accident, he said, that new cases are declining a month later. The number of Covid-19 patients admitted to the hospital each day in Arizona peaked at 129 on June 29 and has now stayed below 50 for nearly a week.

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