This is not a regional crisis, but rather a crisis that is intensifying almost everywhere in the country. Forty-four states and the District of Columbia have a higher number of cases than in mid-September. The virus is spreading in rural communities in the heart of the country, far from the coastal towns hammered at the start of the pandemic.
Wisconsin set a record Thursday by surpassing 4,000 new cases reported. Illinois has also reported more than 4,000 cases, eclipsing records set in the states’ first wave in April and May. Ohio set a new record, as did Indiana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Montana and Colorado. In El Paso, officials have ordered further restrictions and lockdowns amid a frightening outbreak of coronavirus.
We know it’s going to get worse before it gets better, Wisconsin Department of Health Services secretary-designate Andrea Palm said in a briefing Thursday. Stay at home. Wear a mask. Stay six feet away. Wash your hands frequently.
Some hospitals in the Upper Midwest and Great Plains have become overcrowded with patients and are running low on intensive care unit beds. Wisconsin opened a field hospital on the grounds of Wisconsin State Fair Park outside Milwaukee on Wednesday and will eventually be able to treat more than 500 patients.
Montana on Thursday reported a record 301 inpatients with covid-19, 98 percent of inpatient beds occupied the day before in Yellowstone County, home to the city of Billings and the most populous county in the states.
Over the past week, at least 20 states have set record seven-day averages for infections, and a dozen have achieved record hospitalization rates, according to health department data analyzed by the Washington Post.
After peaking in midsummer in the Sun Belt, the country saw a drop in cases in August that hit a low over the Labor Day weekend, but at a level that experts say was still dangerously high, around 40,000 new cases per day. The reopening of many schools and colleges did not immediately lead to a major spike in cases, as some experts had feared, but the numbers have continued to rise.
The increase in cases and hospitalizations since late August has been followed by a more modest increase in covid-19-related deaths. This may reflect, in part, improved patient care by combat-proven medical workers. Widespread use of strong steroids and other treatments has reduced death rates in critically ill people.
But epidemiologists have repeatedly warned that most people remain susceptible to the coronavirus, and transmission would likely be facilitated in colder weather. Not only do people spend more time indoors, but the dry indoor environment is conducive to the spread of respiratory viruses.
On October 3, the national number of cases exceeded 50,000 for the first time since the summer. As more data arrived from health departments on Thursday, it became clear that the 60,000 mark would be reached for the first time since August 7, when infections were rampant in the Sun Belt. At the end of Thursday, the daily total of more than 63,500 cases was the highest number since July 31.
The cumulative number of cases in the United States since the start of the pandemic is expected to exceed 8 million on Friday, according to The Post analysis. The official death toll stood at just under 217,000 on Thursday evening.
Inevitably, we are entering a phase where restrictions will be required again, said David Rubin, director of PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia.
Whether this represents a second wave or even, given the peak of the summer solar belt, a third, is a matter of semantics. The message from infectious disease experts is clear and categorical: the virus does not magically disappear and everyone must prepare for a harsh winter.
This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated their advice on how people should handle the upcoming vacations, saying people at high risk for serious covid-19 disease and those with chronic illnesses won’t should not attend holiday celebrations in person.
This unfortunate message reflects the concern of epidemiologists about domestic transmission and the tendency of people to let their guard down around those they know best. CDC director Robert Redfield said this week on a conference call with governors that Thanksgiving celebrations could trigger high rates of viral transmission, according to a recording obtained by CNN. What was seen as the growing threat today is actually acquiring infection through small family gatherings, Redfield said.
Among those taking a cautious approach is Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, 79 years old. In an interview this week with CBS News, he said his three children would not be flying to Washington on Thanksgiving Day for a family reunion because his advanced age put him at risk. He urged people to consider changing their plans.
It’s unfortunate because it’s such a sacred part of American tradition, the family gathered around Thanksgiving, Fauci said. You may have to bite the bullet and sacrifice this social gathering.
There is no evidence that the coronavirus becomes less deadly due to mutations. Colder weather that pushes people indoors could have the opposite effect, Rubin warned: People can be exposed to greater amounts of the virus indoors.
Experts will closely monitor the death toll to see if the increase in the number of infections leads, as in the past, to a peak in deaths several weeks later. The nation, however, has a patchwork medical system in which some people and places have much greater access to better medical care.
Much of the new transmission takes place in rural communities in the heart of the country with limited hospital capacity. They also tend to have older populations more vulnerable to the serious consequences of covid-19.
The effects of the coronavirus have been remarkably pronounced in recent weeks in Republican-leaning counties, according to a new analysis of health data from researchers at Harvard University that compares the latest number of cases and deaths to voting patterns in the county level in the last presidential election. .
The research, which has not been peer-reviewed, shows that the red counties with the most intense leanings towards Republicans have had the largest recent increases in cases, while the blue counties which tend to be Democratic have had the largest recent increases in cases. recently tended to be flat.
The redder it is, the higher it goes. The bluer it is, the flatter it stays, said Nancy Krieger, an epidemiologist at Harvards TH Chan School of Public Health and lead author of the article.
Harvard professors suspect that Republican-leaning communities have been less inclined to follow public health guidelines, including recommendations on mask wear and social distancing. The collision of the pandemic with the politics of the election year had ripple effects that undermined the collective response to this health crisis.
Actions to suppress transmission have been stronger in blue states than in red states, and the virus has taken its natural course, said Harvard epidemiologist William Hanage.
Many of the country’s leading medical experts, including top federal physicians, have urged adherence to public health guidelines, but that message competed with statements by President Trump and his closest political allies, who played down the threat of coronavirus.
The austere conflict in those messages was magnified this week when a senior administration official said the White House strategy to deal with the pandemic was bolstered by the Great Barrington statement, a document posted online by three Dissenting scientists who argue that the virus should be allowed to spread at natural rates among younger, healthier people, while the elderly and other vulnerable people are isolated.
Geography, demography and chance may play a role in the recent spike seen in many Republican-leaning countries. They are often rural and far from the large democratic cities affected for the first time by the virus. In some of these locations, the virus may have only recently become seeded, carried by travelers from areas with higher transmission.
Ali Mokdad, an epidemiologist at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Measurement and Evaluation, reviewed the Harvard report and said it generally matched what the institute saw in its modeling of the pandemic. Mokdad provided a simple explanation of why rural areas could experience so much transmission so late in the pandemic.
When covid-19 arrived in the United States, it did not immediately appear in rural communities, he said. And then the people in those communities felt, it’s not us, it’s the big cities. They let their guard down.
He added, it will eventually spread all over the United States. This virus is opportunistic. We make a mistake, this virus will win.
Rubin, the director of PolicyLab, predicted that some major cities, including Chicago and Denver, are also expected to see an increase in cases in the coming weeks. And he cautioned against associating viral transmission with partisanship.
There may be some differences between these counties, but don’t overdo them. It’s not a binary question of less security in Republican counties compared to Democratic-leaning countries. The truth is that pandemic fatigue and loss of alertness is more universal than that [Harvard] the article suggests, Rubin said in an email.
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