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June 22, 2020

US coronavirus cases are spiking. Are deaths about to surge too?

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    The daily number of newly reported cases of the novel coronavirus in America grew by about 20% over the past two weeks, but growth in the daily number of U.S. deaths linked to the virus hasn't yet followed—and actually declined by about 43% over the past two weeks, data compiled by the New York Times shows.

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    WHO official says pandemic has entered 'new and dangerous phase,' as new cases spike across US

    World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, on Friday warned that the world has moved into a "new and dangerous phase" of the global coronavirus pandemic as countries have lifted lockdowns and other measures intended to curb the virus' spread, and several have seen their rates of newly reported cases of the virus accelerate. "Countries are understandably eager to open up their societies and their economies. But the virus is still spreading fast. It is still deadly and most people are still susceptible," he said.

    According to WHO, officials worldwide on Sunday reported a record single-day increase in the number of newly reported cases of the new coronavirus since the pandemic first began—with the total number of global cases surging by 183,020 in a span of 24 hours.

    In the United States, data compiled by Johns Hopkins University shows that officials on Saturday reported the country's largest single-day jump in newly reported cases since May 1, when many states first began reopening nonessential businesses and easing stay-at-home orders and social distancing measures intended to curb the new coronavirus' spread. As of Monday morning, U.S. officials reported 2,291,700 cases of the new coronavirus—up from 2,201,300 cases as of Friday morning.

    Data from the New York Times shows that 23 states—Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming—saw their growth rates of newly reported cases of the novel coronavirus rise over the past 14 days.

    Last week, 12 states—Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah—reported record-high daily increases in their numbers of new cases, according to an analysis of state data compiled by the COVID Tracking Project, ABC News reports..

    Officials in Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, and other Southern states have noted that people in their 20s and 30s now are representing a larger share of people testing positive for the new coronavirus than the states have seen in the past. For example, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Friday said, over the past week, the median age of state residents with newly diagnosed cases of the virus was 37, and 62% of the state's newly reported coronavirus cases for the week ending on June 7 were among people under the age of 45. "That is a big change from where we were at the end of March and the beginning of April. It was skewing much older at that time," DeSantis said.

    Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the spikes in cases among young people is "not surprising," because younger people are more likely than older people to engage in risky behaviors.

    For instance, Brannon Traxler, a physician consultant for South Carolina's Department of Health and Environmental Control, said there's evidence that "younger South Carolinians are not taking social distancing seriously."

    Meanwhile, the New York Times' data shows that the growth rates of newly reported cases over the past two weeks remained mostly stable in Guam and 11 states: Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Washington.

    In addition, Puerto Rico, Washington, D.C., and 16 states—Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin—saw their growth rates of newly confirmed cases decrease over the past 14 days, according to the data.

    Increase in US deaths tied to new coronavirus continues to slow

    Although growth in newly reported coronavirus cases is accelerating in nearly half of the country, growth in the country's number of newly reported deaths linked to the virus has slowed since hitting a peak in April.

    An Associated Press analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University found that, in recent weeks, the daily rate of newly reported coronavirus deaths in the United States has decreased to the lowest level the country's seen since March. The analysis, which examined seven-day rolling averages of newly reported deaths linked to the virus through Wednesday, found the number of newly reported deaths per day has decreased from about 960 two weeks ago to 680 as of last week.

    As of Monday morning, officials had reported a total of 119,985 U.S. deaths linked to the new coronavirus—up from 118,458 deaths reported as of Friday morning.

    Public health experts said there are several possible explanations for the slowdown in newly reported deaths tied to the new coronavirus. For example, former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb in a tweet posted Friday wrote that the decline in the United States' daily number of newly reported coronavirus deaths reflects "among other things … improvements in medical care, and more diagnosed cases occurring in milder disease and younger patients as older individuals protect themselves better."

    However, some public health experts have cautioned that the recent spikes in new cases among younger Americans likely will result in surges of new cases among older people, too. Fauci said young people "get infected first, then they come home, and then they infect the older people. The older people get the complications, and then they go to the hospitals."

    Facui warned that could lead to another spike in the number of new U.S. deaths tied to the new coronavirus. "The death rate always lags several weeks behind the infection rate," he said.

    White House's coronavirus task force will stop holding public briefings

    Meanwhile, the White House on Friday announced that the Trump administration's coronavirus task force will no longer hold public briefings.

    White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said officials involved with the task force will enter "a more regular routine" and continue to review data on the country's epidemic and speak with state governors.

    As such, McEnany said, "We don't have regular updates for you other than the updates I give you, as news merits, and I'm regularly in consultation with [task force officials]" (Bosman, New York Times, 6/19; Shumaker, Reuters, 6/21; Axios, 6/21; Newburger, CNBC, 6/20; Wilson, Washington Post, 6/21; Deliso/Mitropoulos, ABC News, 6/21; Maxouris, CNN, 6/21; Baker, "Vitals," Axios, 6/22; Johnson/Forster, Associated Press, 6/18; Wingrove/Parker, Bloomberg, 6/19; New York Times, 6/22 [1]; New York Times, 6/22 [2]).

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