NEW YORK (AP) – As coronavirus deaths in the U.S. are rising rapidly, public health experts are seeing good news: The second increase in confirmed cases appears to be fading.
Scientists are not celebrating in any way, warning that the trend is driven by four major, hard-hit countries – Arizona, California, Florida and Texas – and that cases are rising near 30 states in all, with the center of gravity blast appearing moving from the Sun Belt towards the Midwest.
Some experts question whether the apparent improvements of the cases will endure. It is also not clear when the deaths will begin to fall. COVID-19 deaths do not move in the perfect block with the infection curve, for the simple reason that it can take weeks to get sick and die from the virus.
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The future? “I think it ̵6;s very difficult to predict,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s leading expert on infectious diseases.
The virus has claimed over 150,000 lives in the US, by far the highest number of deaths in the world, plus more than half a million others worldwide. Israel on Thursday marked the mark of 500 deaths.
Over the past week, the average number of COVID-19 deaths per day in the U.S. has climbed more than 25%, from 843 to 1,057. Florida on Thursday reported another 253 deaths, setting its third record of just one day, while Texas had 322 new deaths and California had 391.
The number of confirmed infections nationwide has reached 4.4 million, which may be higher due to testing limits and because some people are infected without feeling sick.
In other developments:
- Collateral damage from the virus has risen, with the U.S. economy shrinking to a staggering 32.9% year-on-year in the April-June quarter – the worst quarterly record since 1947. And more than 1.4 million Americans laid off seeking benefits unemployment last week, further evidence that employers are still looking for work five months into the crisis.
- Amid the explosion and bad economic news, US President Donald Trump for the first time played the idea of postponing the November 3 presidential election, warning without evidence that the increase in postal voting would result in fraud. Changing election day would require an act of Congress, and the notion entered into immediate resistance from top Republicans and Democrats alike.
- Herman Cain, the former CEO of the pizza chain who in 2012 unsuccessfully sought to become the first Black candidate to win the Republican nomination for president, died of complications from the virus in 74.
Based on a seven-day moving average, daily coronavirus cases in the U.S. fell from 67,317 on July 22 to 65,266 on Wednesday, according to data held by Johns Hopkins University. This is a decrease of about 3%.
Researchers prefer to look at two weeks of data pointing in the same direction to say if a trend is true. “But I think it’s true, yes,” said Ira Longini, a University of Florida biostatist who has followed the coronavirus and has been a source of disease predictions used by the government.
The Associated Press found the seven-day average to roll for new cases filed over two weeks in California and reduced to Arizona, Florida and Texas.
Trends in Arizona, Texas and Florida are “starting to bend the curve slightly,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, a public health researcher at Johns Hopkins. These states, along with California, have thrown large numbers of issues every day into the national registry. So when those countries thrive, the whole country looks better, she said.
Also, in another light of possible hope, the percentage of tests that are returning positive for the virus across the U.S. ranged from an average of 8.5% to 7.8% over the past week.
But with the outbreak heating up in the Midwest, Wisconsin Democratic Gov. Tony Evers ordered the masks to be worn nationwide because of an occasional blow, joining about 30 other states that have taken such measures.
The latest rise in cases became apparent in June, weeks after states began reopening following a deadly outbreak of cases in and around New York City in early spring. The number of daily issues rose to 70,000 or more earlier this month. Deaths also began to rise sharply, after a delay of several weeks.
Some researchers believe that the final level is the result of more people embracing social distancing and other precautions.
“I think a lot of them are people who wear masks because they’re scared,” Longini said.
By Dr. Ali Khan, dean of the University of Nebraska College of Public Health, said the trend may also be due to the natural dynamics of the virus that scientists have yet to understand.
Without strong testing and other measures to keep the virus under control, a third peak is possible – or even possible – given that only about 10% of Americans have been infected so far, experts said. And there is no reason to believe that the yeast can not be greater than the first two.
“This disease will continue to grip you until you find protection until it finds protection – susceptible individuals – like any good fire,” said Khan, a former senior infectious disease researcher at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Fauci said he is “somewhat comforted” by the last plateau. But a stabilization of issues at around 60,000 is “still at a very high level”. He said he is also concerned about rising test-return rates in states like Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Indiana.
“This is a warning sign that you can see an increase,” Fauci said. “They really have to jump everything.”