Covid cases continue to climb in almost every state, as U.S. braces for possible ‘third peak’

Texas, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands stand alone in recorded decreases in Covid-19 cases over the last two weeks, as the country braces for a possible “third peak” of the disease.

Although the Lone Star State reported a “slight decrease” in cases over a 14-day period that ended Saturday, its news was better than most: 38 states, Washington, D.C., and Guam are all seeing increases in cases over the past 14 days, and nine states have plateaued, according to NBC News tallies. Rhode Island, which like Texas has also seen a net decrease, does not report data over the weekend, and Missouri is not currently reporting data due to a technology issue.

In Vermont and New Mexico, cases have spiked, as both battle around a 117% spike in cases over the past two weeks.

“We are really struggling,” Dr. Todd Vento, director of the Telehealth Infectious Disease Program of Utah-based Intermountain Health, told NBC”s “TODAY” show. “People are doing heroic work, but they are really getting to the point where it’s going to be literally unsustainable.”

On Saturday, thousands of people, many without masks, attended a Trump rally in Janesville, Wisconsin, as health officials urge residents not to gather with anyone outside of their immediate families. The state, which does not release case counts over the weekend, saw a record 3,861 new cases on Friday, according to the state’s health department.

In North Dakota, a whopping 4% of the state has contracted Covid-19 since March, most of those cases coming within the last few weeks.

North and South Dakota lead the United States in weekly virus cases per capita, according to an NBC News tally, and ICUs are filling up across the state. According to the most recent data released by the North Dakota Department of Health, there are 16 ICU open beds in the state, just one in the capital city of Bismarck. The state, which does not have a mask mandate, only recommends that its residents cover their faces.

“You know, from my perspective, the mask mandate, it’s gonna be hard to enforce,” Kirby Kruger, the North Dakota director of Disease Control, said. “I think there’s a segment of the population that doesn’t want to do this…it’s not something that they feel that the government should be forcing on them.”

Gov. Doug Burgum has continued to stress individual responsibility as the state sees cases rise. “I think it’s important to the future of our state that we do understand there is something that is more powerful than an executive order — infinitely more powerful than a mandate — and these are the beliefs that individuals hold in their hearts,” he said in a press conference.

Burgum said he was “amazed” people were still debating the mask mandate because “there is no other way to get someone to wear a mask other than for that person to choose to do that.”

Texas, where illness is slightly declining, has seen more than 860,000 cases and almost 17,500 deaths. While the trends are somewhat positive, Gov. Greg Abbott deployed additional resources to the Panhandle and the South Plains on Friday to support the local hospitals there.

“As the Amarillo and Lubbock communities see a rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations, the State of Texas is providing support to hospitals throughout these two regions,” Abbott said in a press release.

The almost nationwide spike in cases comes as epidemiologists warn of a possible “third peak” of Covid-19, this time largely centered in the Midwest and Plains.

“Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, we’re having what I see as potentially six weeks of superspreader events, right, in which we’re going to be getting together with family and friends,” Dr. Carlos del Rio, an infectious diseases expert at the Emory University School of Medicine, told NBC News on Friday. “And we can see a lot of disease happening.”

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