A new wave of Covid-19 cases is forming in the United States, a harbinger of difficult winter months.
According to the Covid Tracking Project, America now records an average of nearly 48,000 new confirmed cases every day, the highest number since mid-August. More than 34,500 Americans are currently hospitalized with Covid-19 in the United States, up from less than 30,000 a week ago. Nearly 700 new deaths are also reported on average every day – and while this has been declining since August, when there have often been more than 1,000 deaths a day, deaths will eventually start to increase as cases and hospitalizations continue to rise. It is a pattern that we have seen before.
Public health experts have been warning for months that autumn and winter could lead to a spike in Covid-1
We may now see those predictions starting to come true. The United States already has more than 7.7 million confirmed cases and 214,000 deaths. Both numbers will continue to rise.
Eight months after the onset of the pandemic, America’s failure to contain Covid-19 and states’ enthusiasm to reopen even if they haven’t kept their outbreaks under control is once again leading to an increase in cases and of hospitalizations.
Cases of Covid-19 are increasing everywhere across the country
At the beginning of the year, discussing “waves” was of limited value because some states would have seen a decline in cases while other states were experiencing spikes. What sets this autumn wave apart is that it seems to happen everywhere.
Case numbers have increased in the Northeast, Midwest and West. The South appears, at best, to stabilize at an even higher level than the Northeast suffered during New York’s worst epidemic.
What is so troubling is that no state or region can be blamed for this new wave. Only 13 states have seen their number of new Covid-19 cases decrease in the past two weeks, according to the Covid Exit Strategy. The cases are resolved in all the others.
The raw case numbers can, of course, hide important differences in the population; 100 new cases mean something different for California than Wyoming. Experts will use another metric – new cases per million people – to gauge how saturated a given state is with Covid-19.
The goal would be to have fewer than 40 new cases per million people. But only three states – Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire – meet this threshold. Meanwhile, North Dakota (627 cases per million), South Dakota (596), Montana (474), and Wisconsin (434) are some of the states with very high levels of new infections.
As Vox’s German Lopez reported this week, only one state – Maine – meets all the benchmarks set by experts for a state to consider its Covid-19 outbreak to be contained. Still, most states have reopened many of the businesses that had closed in the spring – some 40 states have reopened restaurants, bars, gyms, cinemas, and non-essential stores.
“Part of the problem is that America never really suppressed its Covid-19 cases to begin with,” Lopez wrote, explaining why experts were anticipating a new wave of cases. “Think of a disease epidemic like a forest fire: it will be really difficult to contain the virus when there are still flames raging in parts of the forest and small embers practically everywhere. The country always risks a riot at every step towards reopening and to any inability to take precautions seriously “.
Too many Covid-19 tests are returning positive right now
Another carefully observed indicator for the renewed spread of Covid-19 is the percentage of coronavirus tests that are positive. The number of tests conducted doesn’t really tell you much; if a high percentage of them are positive, it suggests that many others are not caught at all and the virus may continue to spread unchecked.
So while the US is now averaging nearly 1 million tests every day, that’s not quite the triumph it might seem (or President Donald Trump would like to believe it is). The country’s positive test rate is 5%, just on the threshold that experts say would reflect adequate testing. Ideally, it would be even lower, 2 percent or less.
But even with that acceptable national positivity rate, most states are still not conducting enough tests. Here are the 10 states with the highest positive test rates, according to Covid Exit Strategy:
- Idaho (25 percent)
- South Dakota (20.6%)
- Wisconsin (19.5 percent)
- Iowa (17.1%)
- Kansas (16.1 percent)
- Wyoming (15.5 percent)
- Utah (14.7%)
- Nevada (14.4 percent)
- Indiana (13.6 percent)
- Alabama (13.3 percent)
It’s really just a handful of better-performing states – namely New York, with over 115,000 tests conducted per day and a 1.2% positivity rate – which prevents the overall U.S. positive test rate from looking like much. worst.
America has never had a cohesive test strategy on Covid-19. There have been regular supply shortages since February which delayed test results. States fought each other for valuable testing resources. Contact tracing has not been a priority for the federal government, and most states still haven’t hired enough people to do that job.
Wealthy countries like Germany and South Korea have used effective programs to isolate test tracks to keep their Covid-19 outbreaks under control. The United States, meanwhile, is still struggling to run enough tests or increase its contact-tracking capabilities. Only 11 states, plus the District of Columbia, could realistically expect to perform adequate contact traceability, according to the Covid Exit Strategy, considering their positivity rate.
Without improvements in both areas, it will continue to be difficult for the United States to contain the coronavirus before a vaccine becomes available.
More and more Americans are being hospitalized with Covid-19
Both the case numbers and the positive test rate can be a bit deceptive, depending on how many tests are performed. They suggest what’s happening on the ground – in this case, Covid-19 is spreading – but they have their limitations. There is some truth in the president’s claim that more tests will mean more cases, although this is not a reason to stop testing.
On the other hand, hospitalizations are more concrete. If more people are developing symptoms severe enough to warrant hospitalization, this is a strong indicator that the real number of people infected with Covid-19 is growing, regardless of whether they are being tested.
And after a drop in September, the number of Americans currently in hospital with Covid-19 is higher than it has been in a month. This trend has been observed across the country.
The concern becomes that if hospitals welcome too many patients, they will have to turn other people away or that overwhelmed staff and facilities could lead to some patients receiving less than average care. According to Covid Exit Strategy, 20 states currently have reduced ICU capacity which puts them in a danger zone; 21 states have a high occupancy rate in their regular hospital beds.
Wisconsin, where the number of hospitalized patients with Covid-19 has increased in the past month from about 300 to 876 today, recently established a new field hospital in its state park fairground for fear state hospitals would not quite read given the recent increase in cases.
Fortunately, hospitals have improved a lot in dealing with Covid-19. They’ve tried treatments, such as remdesivir and dexamethasone, which shorten the length of hospital stays and reduce mortality in patients with severe symptoms. They learned techniques such as placing patients on their stomachs to improve breathing. Hospitals that have experienced more spikes in Covid-19 cases report that patients in subsequent waves spend less time in hospital and die less frequently.
However, more people who develop severe symptoms, as we are starting to see, will inevitably lead to more deaths. During the summer, people wondered why deaths decreased as cases and hospitalizations increased, until deaths began to increase. There is a long gap between the increase in cases and the increase in deaths, because a month or more can pass between the time a person first contracts Covid-19 and, if they die, when they are reported. the death.
This is why these new Covid-19 trends in the US are so concerning. Cases are on the rise, as are hospitalizations. It may only be a matter of time before deaths start to rise too.
Help keep Vox free for everyone
Millions of people turn to Vox every month to understand what’s going on in the news, from the coronavirus crisis to a racial showdown to what is, quite possibly, the most consequential presidential election of our life. Our mission has never been as vital as it is right now: empower you through understanding. But our hallmark of explanatory journalism requires resources. Even when the economy and the news advertising market recover, your support will be a vital part of supporting our resource-intensive work. If you have already contributed, thank you. If you haven’t, consider helping everyone make sense of an increasingly chaotic world: Contribute today starting at as little as $ 3.