June 3, 2020

Will Covid-19 wane this summer? Probably not, a White House official says.

Daily Briefing

    The latest data shows the overall number of Americans who are hospitalized with Covid-19 is declining, but certain states are seeing increases—and public health experts say America could soon see another spike in new Covid-19 cases.

    Q&As: How top health systems are tackling Covid-19

    US Covid-19 cases surpass 1.8M, death toll tops 106K

    U.S. officials as of Wednesday morning had reported 1,841,400 cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus—up from 1,820,200 cases as of Tuesday morning.

    As of Wednesday morning, officials also had reported a total of 106,195 U.S. deaths linked to the new coronavirus—up from 105,095 deaths reported as of Tuesday morning.

    Rate of new Covid-19 hospitalizations declines

    While the numbers of newly reported cases of Covid-19 and related deaths continue to rise throughout the United States, data has shown that the country's overall growth rates of new Covid-19 cases and related deaths have been slowing. However, a state-by-state look at the data reveals the slowdown is not consistent, with some areas in of the country seeing rising growth rates.

    Similarly, state data compiled by the COVID Tracking Project shows that, overall, the number of Americans who are hospitalized with Covid-19 has been declining. According to the data, about 34,000 Americans who were diagnosed with or being evaluated for Covid-19 were hospitalized at the start of this month, down from 40,000 such patients in the middle of May.

    However, the data also showed that, while Covid-19 hospitalizations have been declining in some states, they're rising in others.

    For example, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday announced that the state's number of newly reported Covid-19 hospitalizations on June 1, which was 154, was the lowest number the state had reported since it first started counting such hospitalizations in mid-March. Connecticut, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, and New Jersey—all of which, along with New York, were early hot spots of the country's Covid-19 epidemic—also have reported drops in their numbers of Covid-19 hospitalizations.

    On the other hand, the data showed that Arizona, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Washington are reporting increases in their numbers of Covid-19 hospitalizations, and numbers of Covid-19 hospitalizations being tracked by CDC in 14 states have not shown signs of decreasing. In addition, Axios' "Vitals" notes that Alabama, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, and Tennessee do not report their numbers of Covid-19 hospitalizations, so it's unclear what's occurring in those states.

    And while hospitalization rates help to indicate which areas experienced severe Covid-19 outbreaks, "they are a lagging indicator of an area's actual infection rate and could underestimate the spread if people die in their homes or before making it to the hospital," "Vitals" reports. Further, public health experts have expressed concerns that, as states move forward with their plans to reopen nonessential businesses and ease social distancing measures intended to curb the new coronavirus' spread, and as mass protests in recent days may have exposed more people to the virus, America soon could see another spike in new Covid-19 cases.

    Experts says it's not likely transmission of new coronavirus while slow over the summer

    Meanwhile, top U.S. health experts are expressing doubt that transmission of the new coronavirus will slow during the country's summer months.

    In recent months, researchers have noted that transmission of the new coronavirus has been highest in cooler climates and have been questioning whether an increase in temperature and humidity in the United States' spring and summer months could curb the virus' spread. Researchers have noted that many viruses have seasonal fluctuations, such as those that cause the flu, which typically surges during the winter, and Chickenpox, which usually peaks in the spring.

    Some studies released over the past few months have suggested that the new coronavirus could have a seasonal fluctuation similar to that of the flu. But researchers and public health experts had cautioned that, although the studies suggested transmission of the new coronavirus might slow over the summer, it's not likely to halt completely.

    On Tuesday, Deborah Birx, who's coordinating the White House's coronavirus task force, warned that Americans should not expect that the country's Covid-19 epidemic will wane this summer. "None of us can be lulled into this false sense of security that the cases may go down this summer," she said.

    Birx added that U.S. officials are continuing to prepare for potential future outbreaks of Covid-19 in the United States through proactive surveillance and contact tracing.

    Similarly, NIH Director Francis Collins in a blog post published Tuesday wrote that "many researchers have their doubts that the Covid-19 pandemic will enter a needed summertime lull." He wrote, "Among them are some experts on infectious disease transmission and climate modeling, who ran a series of sophisticated computer simulations of how the virus will likely spread over the coming months. This research team found that humans' current lack of immunity to [the new coronavirus]—not the weather—will likely be a primary factor driving the continued, rapid spread of the novel coronavirus this summer and into the fall."

    As such, Collins wrote that physical distancing will continue to be Americans' "best weapon into the summer" to help curb the new coronavirus' spread. "So, keep wearing those masks and staying six feet or more apart," Collins wrote (Owens, "Vitals," Axios, 6/3; New York Times, 6/3; Horn, NPR, 6/2; Owermohle, Politico, 6/2; Collins, NIH Director's Blog, 6/2).

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