The number of U.S. deaths linked to the new coronavirus topped 150,000 on Wednesday, with the United States reporting far more coronavirus-related deaths than any other country so far.
US new coronavirus cases surpass 4.4M, deaths top 151K
Data from the New York Times shows that Puerto Rico; Washington, D.C.; and 28 states saw their average daily numbers of newly reported coronavirus cases rise over the past 14 days: Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wyoming.
Meanwhile, the Times' data shows that the average daily numbers of newly reported coronavirus cases over the past two weeks remained mostly stable in Guam and 17 states: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
The U.S. Virgin Islands and five states—Arizona, Kansas, South Carolina, Texas, and Vermont—saw their average daily numbers of newly confirmed cases decrease over the past 14 days, according to the Times' data.
Growth in America's national coronavirus-related death rate has been rising in recent weeks. Over the past 11 days, U.S. officials have reported more than 10,000 new deaths linked to the coronavirus, which is the fastest spike in coronavirus-related deaths that the country has seen since early June, Reuters reports.
According to the Times' data, Puerto Rico and 24 states saw their average daily numbers of newly reported deaths linked to the coronavirus rise over the past 14 days: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
On Wednesday, California, Florida, and Texas each reported record-high single-day increases in their numbers of deaths linked to the new coronavirus. Overall, the United States reported at least 1,420 new coronavirus-related deaths on Wednesday, bringing the country's total of coronavirus-linked deaths reported since the epidemic began to 151,194 as of Thursday morning—up from a total of 149,774 deaths reported as of Wednesday morning.
Although the United States has just 5% of the global population, the country has accounted for nearly 25% of the world's 662,000 coronavirus-related deaths reported since the global coronavirus pandemic began, NPR reports. The United States has reported far more total deaths linked to the virus than any other country by far, as the country with the next-highest reported death toll, Brazil, has reported about 89,000 coronavirus-related deaths, according to NPR. However, data compiled Johns Hopkins University shows that the United States' case fatality rate, which is calculated as the number of deaths per 100 confirmed coronavirus cases, is about 3.4%, which is much lower than fatality rates in some other countries, such as the United Kingdom, which has a case fatality rate of about 15.2%.
What's driving the US' spike in coronavirus deaths?
Public health experts say higher coronavirus transmission rates are behind the spike in America's coronavirus death toll.
"The mortality is going to march in lockstep with our transmission," said Sarah Fortune, chair of immunology and infectious diseases at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
And public health experts say America is seeing higher coronavirus transmission rates because Americans are not closely following practices that can help mitigate the virus' spread.
"The aspect which is really impossible to predict is human behavior," said Virginia Pitzer, a professor of epidemiology at Yale University. "To what extent are people going to socially distance themselves? To what extent are politics going to influence whether you wear a mask? All of these factors are impossible to factor in."
Coronavirus transmission in America began to resurge after many states took steps to reopen nonessential businesses, lift stay-at-home orders, and relax social distancing and other measures intended to curb the virus' spread too soon, experts have said.
In Tennessee, for example, John Graves, an associate professor of health policy at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, said infection rates have increased among young adults in Nashville and Memphis, which he attributes to individuals returning to bars once nonessential businesses in the cities reopened and to social gatherings for Fourth of July celebrations.
And public health experts explained that when coronavirus transmission rates increase among young adults, they're subsequently going to rise among other populations—including among vulnerable populations who are at higher risk of dying from Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. Growing evidence indicates that young adults who work outside of their homes and those who have gone to bars and restaurants when states reopened nonessential businesses have started to infect older populations, the Washington Post reports.
Pat Herlihy, chief of critical care at Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center in Houston, said, "We think when Texas started opening up, that was May 1, it was young people going to bars and restaurants, out and about, gathering socially. My hypothesis now is that they're engaging with the larger families, they're engaging with the 60- to 70-year-olds—parents, uncles, aunts. They're engaging much more with that vulnerable population."
As a result, the number of older adults hospitalized for Covid-19 has begun to climb throughout the United States, even as many older adults continue to stay home and take precautions to protect themselves from the coronavirus. For example, Peter Paige, CMO for Jackson Health System in Miami, said the system's share of hospitalized Covid-19 patients who are 65 or older has increased from 40% in June to about 55% this month. And about 60% to 65% of Americans dying from Covid-19 are ages 65 or older, according to the Post.
"We have to do better in terms of limiting transmission," Fortune said. "We have this terrible death toll because we have done a lousy job at limiting transmission."
Trump admin to launch 'Embers Strategy' to help coronavirus infection hot spots
To address the resurgence in America's coronavirus epidemic, the Trump administration is launching a new campaign, called the "Embers Strategy," to help mitigate the virus' spread in infection hot spots, White House officials told Axios.
According to Axios' "Vitals," the campaign aims to prevent areas seeing coronavirus test positivity rates between 5% and 10% from reaching positivity rates above 10%. Under the campaign, the administration will try to increase the availability of personal protective equipment and coronavirus test kits in those areas.
The administration also is bringing top health officials—including Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Deborah Birx, who is coordinating the White House's coronavirus task force—to areas with high coronavirus transmission rates to help educate the public on measures that can mitigate the virus' spread. The officials will appear on local television and radio programs to discuss face coverings, hand washing, physical distancing, and self-isolating, "Vitals" reports (Hall, Wall Street Journal, 7/30; Bogel-Burroughs, New York Times, 7/29; Wise/Chappell, NPR, 7/29; Shumaker, Reuters, 7/29; Bernstein, Washington Post, 7/29; Owens, "Vitals," Axios, 7/30; New York Times, 7/30).