Coronavirus hit the US hardest – but the next 4 months could be even worse

  • The number of daily COVID-19 cases in America and the coronavirus test positivity rate are climbing steadily, worrying health experts and public officials involved in managing the pandemic.
  • “This winter — this November, December, January, February — could be the worst time in our epidemic,” Dr. Peter Hotez said in an interview, warning everyone that they should “hunker down.”
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci explained that the increasing positivity rate of tests is a reliable indicator of the virus’s resurgence, which will lead to more hospitalizations and deaths.

The novel coronavirus infection rate in the US has been trending up since early September, when the number of daily infections settled at around 35,000 cases a day. This week’s figures are significantly higher, with the total number of new COVID-19 cases averaging between 40,000 and 50,000. Health experts warn that the worst is yet to come and that the US might be about to experience the worst phase of the COVID-19 pandemic yet. Winter could bring a major spike in cases, and the current infection rate in some states is seen as an indication that things will worsen before they get better.

“This winter — this November, December, January, February — could be the worst time in our epidemic,” Dr. Peter Hotez said in an interview. “Get ready to hunker down.” Hotez is the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

“We went down to the lowest point lately in early September, around 30,000-35,000 new cases a day. Now we’re back up to (about) 50,000 new cases a day. And it’s going to continue to rise,” Hotez told CNN in an interview on Tuesday. He warned that even though certain parts of the country are driving the new COVID-19 surge, the whole country will experience it.

“This is the fall/winter surge that everyone was worried about. And now it’s happening. And it’s happening especially in the northern Midwest, and the Northern states are getting hit very hard — Wisconsin, Montana, the Dakotas. But it’s going to be nationally soon enough.”

CNN reports that more than 30 states reported more COVID-19 cases this past week than the previous week. Dr. Anthony Fauci confirmed the alarming infection rates in some regions. Test positivity averaged 5.1% for the entire country as of Tuesday. But at least 13 states had rates of over 10%: Alabama, Florida, Iowa, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, South Dakota, Utah, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

“You’d like to see (the rates) less than 3%, optimally 1% or less,” Fauci said during a College of American Pathologists event. Fauci explained that a high positivity rate leads to more hospitalization and more deaths. “We’re starting to see a number of states well above that, which is often — in fact, invariably — highly predictive of a resurgence of cases, which historically we know leads to an increase in hospitalizations and then ultimately an increase in deaths,” he said. In a separate interview, Fauci indicated that lockdowns aren’t necessary to reduce the spread. He recommended the same 5 safety measures that can reduce transmission that he’s been advocating for months: face masks, social distancing, hand hygiene, avoiding crowds, and avoiding indoors.

Officials worry that as more and more coronavirus patients occupy hospital beds, some medical systems will be overwhelmed, and this could impact patients suffering from other illnesses. CNN says that more than 35,000 hospitalizations were registered as of Monday, a significant increase from the September 20th low of 28,600.

The number of children being infected has soared as well, climbing by 13% from September 24th to October 8th. That’s more than 77,000 new infections, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association.

The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation projects more than 135,000 deaths in the next three months. As of Thursday, the illness killed over 222,000 Americans, out of the more than 8.16 million confirmed infections.

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