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Coronavirus: Why Are Infections Rising Again in the US?



Chart showing an American woman wearing a face mask

News of President Donald Trump’s positive coronavirus test, and his subsequent hospitalization, reminded the country that no one is protected from this virus.

So where is the US right now in dealing with the pandemic?

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What’s the big picture?

With around 7.5 million coronavirus cases, the United States has the highest number of confirmed infections in the world – about a fifth of the global total despite having only 4% of the population.

After the initial peak in late March, social distancing restrictions across the country have gradually reduced infections. By May, the number of cases had stabilized. But when states pulled back the lockdown measures, cases began to rise, reaching a national high in July.

Chart showing regional differences in the number of cases per day

But while summer hotspots – like Arizona, Florida, and California – kept their outbreaks in check, peaks developed elsewhere, with rapid outbreaks in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

In recent weeks, the country has seen a further increase in infections, with national cases on the rise for three weeks in a row. Although the numbers have so far not reached record highs in July and August, the country is reporting over 40,000 new cases every day.

Hospitalizations are also on the rise. According to data collected by the Covid Tracking Project, the average number of people hospitalized for coronavirus in a week has recently increased for the first time since July.

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Why are cases on the rise?

It is difficult to explain exactly why.

A determining factor was the return to school for US students.

A recent study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control of nearly 100,000 coronavirus cases reported between August 2 and September 5, roughly when college students began their return to school, found that weekly cases among 18-22 years increased by 55% nationwide.

The biggest increases have come from the Northeast (which includes New York, Connecticut and New Jersey) and the Midwest, which is a region located west of the Northeast, which includes Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin.

There have now been more than 130,000 cases identified in more than 1,300 American colleges, the New York Times reported.

Chart showing regional differences in the number of cases per day

Another compositional factor is the change of seasons. Last month, the foremost virus expert in the United States, Dr Anthony Fauci, said we should plan to “squat down” during the fall and winter. “It won’t be easy,” he said.

Because? A key element of the coronavirus health advice has been to get things done. This becomes more difficult when temperatures drop. Instead, the cold will push people indoors to closer quarters with potentially poor ventilation, where the risk of spread is increased.

Furthermore, viruses tend to survive more easily in cold conditions.

There are now further fears that the virus will collide with the U.S. flu season – which typically begins in October – threatening to overwhelm the country’s healthcare system.

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Are the deaths still falling?

Here’s some good news: Virus deaths in the United States continue to decline, albeit gradually.

By early October, the daily average had reached around 720, a sharp drop from the more than 1,000 daily casualties recorded this summer.

Graph showing the number of daily deaths in the United States

But the bad news? This decline appears to have slowed over the past few weeks. And recent daily counts suggest that some ground has been lost since the record lows of early July.

In total, more than 210,000 people have died of Covid-19 in the United States, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

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What are the hotspots?

The number of cases remains high across much of the country, with concentrations in the Upper Midwest (which includes Wisconsin and Minnesota) and parts of the West.

Wisconsin is one of the hardest hit states. Case numbers have quadrupled in the past month according to the Covid Tracking Project. Admissions more than doubled during the month of September and her test positive rate is now at a weekly average of 19.6%.

To put this figure in perspective: The World Health Organization in May suggested a positive case rate of 5% or less for two weeks before the reopening measures were implemented.

Map showing the average number of daily cases in the past week per million people by state. South Dakota, North Dakota, and Wisconsin have the highest numbers at the moment.

North Dakota is also in the throes of a serious epidemic. For the fourth consecutive week, it brought the United States in most cases per capita – to 548 cases per million residents. Neighboring South Dakota, as well as Montana, Utah and Idaho, are also seeing severe increases in new infections.

The states of Sunbelt Arizona, Florida and California – hit by the virus this summer – are now getting some relief, with steep declines.

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Will New York City Close Again?

New York City, once the epicenter of the outbreak in the United States, is once again facing an increasing number of cases. In late September, when many public schools began reopening, Mayor Bill DeBlasio reported a daily positive test rate of 3.25%, the highest daily rate since June.

Amid growing fears of a second wave, Mr. DeBlasio announced plans to close non-essential businesses in nine hotspots in Brooklyn and Queens, a plan quickly rejected by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a fellow Democrat and political rival.

Mr. Cuomo said there “may be” a future reduction in indoor and outdoor dining in hotspot areas, but called the closure of non-essential businesses in certain postcodes “arbitrary and capricious”.

But despite the political tug-of-war, the city will move forward with plans to close public and private schools in those nine areas, which are home to an estimated 500,000 New Yorkers, including large communities of Orthodox Jews, among which the virus has spread rapidly. .

“I’m not going to recommend or allow any New York City family to send their child to a school that I wouldn’t send to my child,” said Mr. Cuomo of the closures.

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Interestingly, these considerations are taking place in New York, even though it still has a lower positivity rate than many other parts of the country.

Chart showing the rate of positive cases for states that exceed 5%

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