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October 8, 2020

Coronavirus is surging across the country. What's going wrong?

Daily Briefing

    The novel coronavirus continues to spread in the United States, with cases of Covid-19 exceeding 7.5 million on Wednesday. Of the many states seeing a rise in Covid-19 cases, nine have set seven-day records for infections, once again raising concerns about the health care system's capacity to treat infected patients.

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    U.S. officials as of Thursday morning reported a total of 7,582,200 cases of the novel coronavirus since the country's epidemic began—up from 7,529,400 cases reported as of Wednesday morning.

    A USA Today analysis of Johns Hopkins data shows U.S. Covid-19 cases have been rising for the last three weeks, with the country reporting about 44,000 cases per day. Health officials have attributed the surge to the reopening of universities and K-12 schools, as well as public fatigue over health measures such as wearing masks and social distancing.

    According to data from the New York Times, the rates of newly reported coronavirus cases are "staying high" in 26 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, Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

    Washington, D.C. and 15 states that have had comparatively low case rates are now seeing those rates "going up," according to the Times. Those states are Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

    A USA Today analysis of Johns Hopkins data shows nine states—Alaska, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, Utah and Wyoming—each set state records for a seven-day period.

    In the 11 remaining U.S. states and territories, rates of newly reported coronavirus cases are "staying low," according to the Times' analysis.

    U.S. officials as of Thursday morning also reported a total of 211,750 deaths linked to the coronavirus since the country's epidemic began—up from 210,750 deaths reported as of Wednesday morning. According to USA Today's analysis, deaths related to the coronavirus were higher in 25 of the states, and two states—Wisconsin and Hawaii—reported state records for the number of deaths over a seven-day period.

    How states are responding to the growing case loads

    In Wisconsin, which ranked third in the country for new cases per capita over the last two weeks, hospitals warned they could soon experience capacity issues. State officials on Wednesday reported that 853 patients are hospitalized across the state and 216 are in intensive care. According to USA Today, about 16% of the state's hospital beds are currently available.

    In response, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) on Wednesday announced that the state will open a field hospital on Oct. 14 at the state fairgrounds near Milwaukee. The alternative care facility will be able to accommodate 530 patients. The facility will work with hospitals to treat patients who are not seriously ill but require hospital-level care. The facility will not accept walk-in patients.

    In addition, Evers announced new public health measures aimed at curbing the virus. For instance, the state beginning Thursday will cap indoor bars and restaurants at 25% of capacity.

    In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) is working to address flareups in part by once again closing some schools, places of worship, and nonessential businesses in some areas.

    Meanwhile, Kentucky officials have reported record weekly totals for three consecutive weeks. In response, Gov. Andy Beshear (D) extended by 30 days the statewide mask mandate and said the state would be "stepping up the enforcement." Beshear said businesses could be fined or temporarily shut down if they are serving customers not wearing face masks.

    "It's going to be a hard month with all the cases we've seen," Beshear said. "It's going to be a hard October, and it's going to be a hard November, too, because deaths trail cases" (Bacon, USA Today, 10/7; Guzman, The Hill, 10/7; Richmond, Associated Press, 10/7; Coleman, The Hill, 10/7; New York Times, 10/8).

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