April 5, 2021

Is the US in a fourth wave of Covid-19? Here are the best arguments for 'yes' and 'no.'

Daily Briefing

    Coronavirus cases are rising across the United States, but experts are divided over whether the country is on the cusp of a fourth wave of the epidemic.

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    Where America's coronavirus epidemic stands

    According to the Washington Post, the daily number of newly reported U.S. coronavirus cases is climbing once again and is nearing the level of last summer's peak—although it's still significantly lower than the record peak reached this winter.

    Experts have said the recent uptick in coronavirus cases likely stems from two key factors: states easing coronavirus-related restrictions, and the spread of more transmissible coronavirus variants.

    According to data compiled by the Times, the United States' average daily number of newly reported coronavirus cases over the past week was 64,019—up by 18% compared with the average from two weeks ago.

    The Times' data showed that, as of Monday morning, the rates of newly reported coronavirus cases were "staying high" in Washington, D.C and 24 states that have reported a daily average of at least 15 newly reported cases per 100,000 people over the past week. Those states are Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia.

    In addition, the rate of newly reported coronavirus cases was "going up" as of Monday morning in Hawaii, Indiana, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Washington, and Wisconsin, which have had comparatively lower case rates, the Times reports.

    Meanwhile, data also shows hospitalizations are rising again. According to the Times' data, 40,740 Americans with Covid-19 were hospitalized on Sunday—up by 1% from the average from two weeks ago.

    Even as cases and hospitalizations are increasing, data shows deaths are continuing to decline. According to the Times' data, 277 new deaths were linked to the coronavirus on Sunday, down 23% from the average two weeks ago.

    Why experts are split over whether the US is on the verge of a fourth wave of the epidemic

    Despite the rise in U.S. coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, experts are divided on whether the United States will see a fourth surge in epidemic. 

    CDC Director Rochelle Walensky during a White House briefing last week said she's "scared" the United States will see a sharp increase in coronavirus cases even as millions of Americans are being vaccinated against Covid-19.

    During an interview on Fox's "Fox News Sunday," Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, echoed Walensky's concerns, saying the United States is "almost in a new pandemic" because of the spread of a more contagious variant of the coronavirus called B.1.1.7, which was first discovered in the United Kingdom.

    Osterholm during a separate interview Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" said he expects the next two weeks will bring "the highest number of cases reported globally since the beginning of the pandemic." Osterholm added, "In terms of the United States, we're just at the beginning of this surge. We haven't even really begun to see it yet."

    However, other experts have said they don't expect the United States will see a severe surge in coronaviruses cases.

    Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical advisor for the White House's Covid-19 response, during an interview with NPR's "Morning Edition" on Friday said there will be a race "between the potential for a surge and our ability to vaccinate as many people as we possibly can," but he doesn't think the United States will experience a wave of infections as severe as the previous ones.

    Similarly, former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb during an interview on CBS's "Face the Nation" on Sunday said he doesn't expect a "true fourth wave" resurgence of the coronavirus because of America's accelerating vaccine rollout.

    Gottlieb said, "I think that there's enough immunity in the population that you're not going to see a true fourth wave of infection." Gottlieb added that he believes the recent spike in new cases are "pockets of infections around the country" that won't fuel a fourth surge.

    Experts also say that, if a fourth wave does materialize, it will likely be less deadly than previous waves, as a majority of seniors, who are at high risk for a severe case of Covid-19, have at least received one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine (New York Times, 4/5; Thebault, Washington Post, 4/4; King, NPR, 4/2; Mastrangelo, The Hill, 4/2; Weixel, The Hill, 4/4; Diamond/Liptak, CNN, 4/3; Cohen, Politico, 4/4; McEvoy, Forbes, 4/4).

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