Why the 3rd U.S. coronavirus surge could prove particularly challenging

The United States on Friday recorded more than 85,000 new coronavirus cases, The New York Times reports. That set a new single-day record, breaking the previous mark from mid-July by nearly 10,000 cases. Hospitalizations have also been rising steadily since the start of October, and while deaths have mostly remained flat, they are often a lagging indicator.

The current surge is most heavily concentrated in the Midwest and West, but it’s spread out more widely than the previous waves from the spring and summer, which occurred primarily in the Northeast and Sun Belt, respectively. More than 170 counties across 36 states were designated rapidly rising hotspots, an internal federal report produced Thursday for Department of Health and Human Services officials that was obtained by The Washington Post revealed.

Earlier in the pandemic, health care workers would move around to help ease the burden facing overwhelmed hospitals, but “that’s just not possible when the virus is surging everywhere,” Eleanor Murray, an epidemiologist at Boston University, told the Post; experts have warned of shortages of medical staff and supplies.

Additionally, Murray said, “we are starting this wave much higher than either of the previous waves. And it will simply keep going up until people and officials decide to do something about it.” Read more at The Washington Post and The New York Times.

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U.S. ‘Headed in the Wrong Direction’ as a 3rd Peak Nears

Here’s what you need to know:

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As coronavirus cases across the United States climb toward a third peak, the country surpassed a total of eight million total known cases on Thursday afternoon, according to a New York Times database.

Epidemiologists warned of a new, worrisome phase as 17 states are seeing surges unlike anything they experienced earlier in the pandemic. States including Alaska, Minnesota, Montana and Wisconsin reported more new cases during the seven-day stretch that ended on Wednesday than in any other week since the virus arrived in the country.

Reports of new cases are trending upward in 41 states over the last two weeks, while nine states are holding case numbers roughly steady. No state in the country is seeing a sustained decline.

Many of the 17 states seeing more new cases than ever — located mostly in the Midwest or in the Mountain West — had relatively few cases until recently. But cases are now steadily climbing. Intensive care unit beds in hospitals are few and far between in some rural communities, experts said, raising concerns about crowded facilities.

“What’s happening in the Upper Midwest is just a harbinger of things to come in the rest of the country,” said Michael Osterholm, an infectious-diseases expert at the University of Minnesota.






April 10

31,709

new cases

(7-day avg.)

New cases per day in the United States

April 10

31,709

new cases

(7-day avg.)

New cases per day in the United States

April 10

31,709

new cases

(7-day avg.)

New cases per day in the U.S.

April 10

31,709

new cases

(7-day avg.)

New cases per day

in the United States


Already, signs of the uptick are appearing beyond the nation’s middle. In the Northeast, where cases have been relatively low since a spring surge, reports of new infections have started ticking upward again. In the South, where infections spiked this summer, the picture varies from state to state, with sustained progress in Florida and Georgia but worrisome trends in Arkansas and Kentucky.

The number of cases alone is not a full measure of the nation’s outbreak — it is difficult to compare the current numbers with earlier points in the U.S. outbreak when testing was less widespread — and deaths from the virus have been relatively flat in recent weeks, with an average of about 700 per day. But “we are headed in the wrong direction,” said Caitlin Rivers, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University.

“That’s reflected not only in the number of new cases but also in test positivity and the number of hospitalizations,” said Dr. Rivers, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University. “Together, I think these three indicators give a very clear picture that we are seeing increased transmission in communities across the country.”

High levels of infection in colleges and universities, Dr. Osterholm said, are serving as one source of the spread. Transmission also has

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