The fall surge has ushered in daunting rates of Covid-19 spread, with 29 states reporting at least one record high day of new cases since October began, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
The record spread has brought the national total to more than 8.7 million infections and 226,723 deaths. And with this spike holding the potential to be the worst yet, experts warn that the impact of the virus will likely get worse.
“We’re rising quickly. If we just go back about six, seven weeks ago to Labor Day, we were at about 35,000 cases a day,” Dr. Ashish Jha, the dean of Brown University School of Public Health, said Tuesday. “We’re above 70,000 and just heading up. I would not be surprised if we end up getting to 100,000.” The United States added 73,240 new cases Tuesday, and a record peak of more than 83,000 cases was reported on Friday.
The rise in cases has been followed closely behind by an increase in coronavirus deaths.
This month, 11 states reported their highest single day of new deaths since the pandemic began. And though researchers are racing toward a vaccine, health experts have cautioned that the public needs to take the virus seriously in the meantime.
“If we continue our current behavior, by the time we start to go down the other side of the curve, a half a million people will be dead,” CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner said Tuesday.
Under the current conditions, more than 2,000 people are predicted to die of the virus daily by January 1, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.
Imminent threats to hospital capacity
Forty states are reporting an increase of daily average cases by more than 10% compared to last week, and many are feeling the impact in their hospitalization rates.
Even with a hospital facility opened on fair grounds in Wisconsin, rising cases are threatening the capacity of health care facilities in the state, Gov. Tony Evers said.
“There is no way to sugarcoat it, we are facing an urgent crisis and there is an imminent risk to you and your family,” Gov. Tony Evers said.
Ohio, one of the states to report a record of daily cases this month, is also seeing a surge in coronavirus hospitalizations — one that “is noticeably sharper, steeper than the increase we saw during the summer peak,” Gov. Mike DeWine said.
ICU admissions in the state have doubled since the start of the month, he said.
Colorado also has cause for concern when it comes to hospitalizations as the number of daily new coronavirus cases reaches an all-time high.
“If these trends continue, it would exceed May hospitalization numbers,” said Gov. Jared Polis. “And the modeling suggests that if we don’t change what we’re doing it’ll exceed all of the existing hospital capacity by the end of the year. This thing moves quick and we need to change the way we live.”
In response to the rise in infections and positivity rates, the city and county of Denver has pushed back the occupancy of restaurants, retailers and some other businesses from 50% to 25%, according to a statement from the city Tuesday.
“Why we’re doing this is to send a clarion call to everyone that we have a responsibility to once again put our hands on this boulder and begin to push it back up the hill,” Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said.
In Pennsylvania, hospitalizations are still “well below” the earlier peak. But with a new record of single-day cases on Monday, increases are “now comparable to what we saw in April 2020,” the state’s department of health said in a release.
A vaccine will have an equitable distribution, official says
Researchers have moved at an unprecedented pace to bring a potential vaccine through development to distribution to get the virus under control.
But even though 44 vaccines have made it to clinical trials, it might not be clear which works best — or if they work at all — until they have been authorized and distributed to many people, a team of experts said Tuesday.
“Protection against severe disease and death is difficult to assess in phase 3 clinical trials due to the unfeasibly large numbers of participants required,” the experts, led by Dr. Susanne Hodgson of Oxford University’s Jenner Institute, said in a review in the Lancet Infectious Diseases.
That data may only come “from large phase 4 trials or epidemiological studies done after widespread deployment of a vaccine,” the experts wrote.
Once a vaccine is approved, officials will work to distribute it quickly.
“We’ll distribute vaccines, accordingly, to all of America simultaneously,” Army Gen. Gustave Perna, chief operating officer of the federal government’s coronavirus response, said at an online event hosted by the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank.
“We will make sure that there is equitable distribution in accordance with that priority,” he added, and then states will “own the actual final distribution and administration down to individual arms.”
Until then, experts say social distancing and wearing masks are crucial to managing the spread of the virus. And former CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that except for a “small, misguided minority,” Americans are wearing them.
“Today data came out from the Centers for Disease Control that shows that the proportion of people who report they’re wearing masks went up from 78% to 89%,” he said. “Most people get it. What we lack is a coordinated federal response.”