November 5, 2020

100,000 coronavirus cases in a day—and the worst is yet to come, experts say

Daily Briefing

    Even as the United States on Wednesday for the first time reported more than 100,000 new cases of the novel coronavirus in a single day, public health experts warned that—in the absence of a national plan to curb the pathogen's spread—the worst of the epidemic is yet to come.

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    US reports single-day record of more than 100K new coronavirus cases

    On Wednesday, U.S. officials reported about 107,872 new cases of the novel coronavirus, according to data compiled by the New York Times, setting a global record for the highest number of coronavirus cases reported in a single day since the epidemic began.

    U.S. officials as of Thursday morning reported a total of about 9,576,500 cases of the novel coronavirus since the epidemic began, up from about 9,468,700 cases reported as of Wednesday morning.

    According to the Times, the United States' average daily number of newly reported coronavirus cases over the past week was 91,878—which is up by 51% when compared with the average from two weeks ago.

    As of Thursday morning, data from the Times showed that the rates of newly reported coronavirus cases were "staying high" in Puerto Rico and 40 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, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

    On Wednesday, five states—Maine, Minnesota, Indiana, Nebraska, and Colorado—reported record-high single-day increases in their numbers of coronavirus cases, the Times reports, and 23 states have reported more new coronavirus cases in the past week than they had during any other seven-day period since the epidemic began.

    Meanwhile, the Times' data shows that, as of Thursday morning, the daily average of newly reported cases over the past seven days was "going down" in Guam, which had been seeing comparatively higher rates of coronavirus transmission.

    The U.S. Virgin Islands; Washington, D.C.; and eight states that have had comparatively low case rates were seeing those rates "going up" as of Thursday morning, according to the Times. Those states are California, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.

    In Hawaii and Louisiana, rates of newly reported coronavirus cases were "staying low" as of Thursday morning, according to the Times' analysis.

    The United States on Wednesday also reported about 1,616 new deaths tied to the coronavirus. As of Thursday morning, U.S. officials reported a total of about 234,223 U.S. deaths linked to the virus since the country's epidemic began, up from about 232,607 deaths reported as of Wednesday morning.

    Hospitalizations for Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, also are rising, Reuters reports. As of Tuesday, 50,176 Americans with Covid-19 were hospitalized for treatment, which was the highest number of Covid-19 hospitalizations that the country had seen since Aug. 7, according to Reuters. The number of Americans hospitalized for Covid-19 as of Tuesday was up 64% since Oct. 1, Reuters reports.

    According to the Wall Street Journal, public health researchers and epidemiologists say several factors are contributing to the surge in new coronavirus cases, including people growing weary of measures intended to curb the virus' spread and attending social gatherings.

    Public health experts worry worst is yet to come

    Bill Hanage, an associate professor of epidemiology at Harvard University's T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said America's record-setting report of more than 100,000 new coronavirus cases was "the completely foreseeable consequence of not taking pandemic management seriously," and he added that the United States likely will see more increases in "hospitalizations and deaths … in due course."

    "This is desperately concerning," Hanage said, "because uncontrolled transmission will end up compromising health care, and in order to preserve it, we will almost certainly end up needing to take stronger action to prevent the worst outcomes."

    Largely, public health experts are calling for an aggressive national strategy to combat the surging epidemic, as opposed to the mostly state-led efforts the country is seeing now. Without a national strategy, public health experts warn that the epidemic could become much worse—and much harder to control.

    Experts point to what's currently happening in Europe as evidence. There, at least two countries—Italy and England—have had to reimpose widespread lockdowns to curb the coronavirus's spread.

    "Look to Europe to see the consequences of [implementing mitigation measures] too late," Hanage said. "The longer you leave it, the harder it will be to control."

    And the United States is perhaps uniquely situated to see even larger spikes over the next few months, as upcoming holidays could lead to more social gatherings and colder weather could cause people to congregate indoors, where the risk of coronavirus transmission is higher.

    Eleanor Murray, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Boston University, said, "The numbers keep going up, and we're only getting closer and closer to Thanksgiving and Christmas. … For so many reasons, the next few weeks are going to be bad for us and good for [Covid-19]."

    Murray said the United States needs a national strategy to help get the epidemic under control, but she's concerned that the Trump administration will not implement one. She said President Trump has "made clear there will be no top-down, coordinated action coming from the federal government."

    As such, Caitlin Rivers, an assistant professor and epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, in a tweet posted Wednesday wrote, "The question now is whether leaders in hard hit areas who have favored a light touch will implement more aggressive [C]ovid control measures."

    Tom Frieden, who served as CDC director under former President Barack Obama's administration, said, "It's clear we're heading into a period where we're going to see increasing hospitalization and deaths in the [United States]. And it worries me how little we're doing about it. We know by now how fast this virus can move. You have to get ahead of it."

    According to Frieden, if new coronavirus cases continue to surge at the current rate and strong mitigation measures aren't implemented, the coronavirus's transmission in some parts of the United States may reach a point where nothing except stay-at-home orders will help contain the virus's spread  (Taylor, New York Times, 11/4; Hall, Wall Street Journal, 11/5; Shumaker, Reuters, 11/4; Abraham/B, Reuters, 10/3; Owens, "Vitals," Axios, 11/5; Shear/Stolberg, New York Times, 11/3; Bernstein et al., Washington Post, 11/4; New York Times, 11/5).

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