September 22, 2020

America could be heading for an 'apocalyptic fall,' experts warn

Daily Briefing

    The latest data shows that the daily number of newly confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States has increased by more than 15% over the past 10 days, leading some public health experts to warn that America could be heading into an "apocalyptic fall."

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    As of Tuesday morning, U.S. officials reported a total of 6,880,600 cases of the novel coronavirus virus since the country's epidemic began—up from 6,825,700 cases reported as of Monday morning.

    Across the United States, an average of about 40,000 new coronavirus cases are reported each day.  While the average daily number of newly reported cases is down from the country's peak of more than 60,000 in July, public health experts have noted that the current average is twice as high as the average daily number of new cases the country was reporting in early summer, which had fallen to about 20,000 cases per day in early June.

    According to the New York Times, the United States' daily number of newly confirmed coronavirus cases has grown by more than 15% over the past 10 days, representing the highest jump in newly confirmed cases per day that the country's seen since late spring. On Sunday, former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb during an appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation" said about 30 states have coronavirus transmission rates higher than 1%, which points to "an expanding epidemic."

    According to data from the Times, the rates of newly reported coronavirus cases are "staying high" in Puerto Rico and 17 states that have had a daily average of at least 15 newly reported cases per 100,000 people over the past week. Those states are Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin.

    Meanwhile, the rates of newly reported cases over the past seven days are "going down" in Guam, Kentucky, Mississippi, and South Carolina, which had previously seen elevated case rates.

    Nine states that have had comparatively low case rates are now seeing those rates "going up," according to the Times. Those states are Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Wyoming.

    In the remaining states and U.S. territories, rates are "staying low," according to the Times' analysis.

    U.S. officials as of Tuesday morning also reported a total of 199,789 deaths linked to the coronavirus since the country's epidemic began—up from 199,361 deaths reported as of Monday morning.

    US may be headed into 'apocalyptic fall'

    As the United States' numbers of newly reported coronavirus cases and related deaths continue to rise, public health experts are worried the country is beginning to see another spike in its coronavirus epidemic—which could be particularly concerning as America heads into colder months and its flu season.

    Peter Hotez, co-director of the Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, during an interview on CNN's "New Day" on Monday, said the recent increase in America's daily number of newly reported coronavirus cases is troubling. "We may be in for a very apocalyptic fall, I'm sorry to say," Hotez warned.

    Thomas Russo, head of infectious disease at the Jacobs School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences at the University of Buffalo, said he's afraid Americans are growing weary of social distancing, mask wearing, and other measures intended to help contain the novel coronavirus's spread.

    That could be especially dangerous as people begin to spend more time indoors as the weather gets colder, and as people gather to celebrate upcoming holidays. As the Times' Jeneen Interlandi reports, "[I]f pandemic-fatigued families travel to spend the holidays together, [the coronavirus epidemic] will get worse in late fall and winter."

    "It's all too easy for the numbers to go back up," New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) said Monday. Murphy encouraged people to continue wearing masks and practice social distancing, "especially as the weather cools and we're drawn back indoors, where we know this virus is even more dangerous."

    But Jeanne Marrazzo, director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said she believes "[p]eople are really tired of" measures intended to contain to the coronavirus' spread. Further, she said Americans are receiving "contradictory messages" on what they need to do to mitigate the epidemic, which creates "confusion."

    Russo said he's also observed that "the country is undergoing Covid fatigue." He said, "We have become attenuated to [coronavirus] deaths. We've become numb to this. And people have risk-creep" (Mann/Ansari, Wall Street Journal, 9/21; Guzman, "Changing America," The Hill, 9/21; Leonhardt, New York Times, 9/22; New York Times, 9/22).

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