By Robin Foster and E.J. Mundell
WEDNESDAY, July 1, 2020 (HealthDay News)
The number of new U.S. coronavirus cases broke yet another record on Tuesday, as the nation’s top infectious disease expert warned that daily counts could soon top 100,000 a day if the spread of COVID-19 isn’t slowed.
“I can’t make an accurate prediction, but it is going to be very disturbing, I will guarantee you that, because when you have an outbreak in one part of the country, even though in other parts of the country they are doing well, they are vulnerable,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said during a Senate committee hearing on Tuesday.
“We’ve really got to do something about that, and we need to do it quickly,” Fauci testified during questioning from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). “Clearly, we are not in total control right now.”
More than 47,000 new coronavirus cases were reported in the United States on Tuesday, with case counts spiking 80 percent in the past two weeks, The New York Times reported.
Officials in eight states Alaska, Arizona, California, Georgia, Idaho, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas also announced single-day highs.
With new cases spiking in the South and West, at least a dozen states and cities have slowed reopening plans, the Washington Post reported.
It’s not just new infections that are climbing: COVID-19 hospitalizations are also spiking in seven states, the Post reported, suggesting that more than simply upped testing rates are at work. In Texas, Arizona, Nevada, South Carolina, Montana, Georgia and California, seven-day averages for hospitalizations are up at least 25 percent from last week, the newspaper said.
In California, coronavirus case counts have exploded, now surpassing 230,000 infections, the Times reported. Gov. Gavin Newsom has been forced to roll back the state’s reopening in some counties. On Monday, he said the number of people hospitalized in California had risen 43 percent over the past two weeks.
California was the first state to go into lockdown, but officials who were so proactive in curbing the spread of COVID-19 now have to ask themselves what went wrong.
“To some extent, I think our luck may have run out,” Dr. Bob Wachter, chair of the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, told the Times. “This is faster and worse than I expected.”
Public health experts have also cautioned that Florida could become the next epicenter for infections while Texas has seen record-breaking case counts and hospitalizations, CNN reported. Officials across the country are also warning of an increase in cases among younger people.
The city of Jacksonville, which plans to host the Republican National Convention in August, announced Monday that face masks would be mandatory in any indoor spaces where social distancing isn’t possible. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has blamed the state’s increase on a “test dump,” largely from younger residents getting themselves tested for COVID-19.
Rising cases in South alarm federal health officials
Coronavirus response task coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said last week that rising positive test rates in states across the South, including Texas, Arizona, Florida and Mississippi, were causing significant concern among health officials, and that they had created an “alert system” to track them.
She used Texas as an example where higher positive test rates suggest a kind of spread that could not be explained completely by higher rates of testing. Texas is part of a group of states with positive test rates above 10 percent, a threshold the White House has used to identify areas of particular concern, she explained.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has said that the virus had taken a “very swift and a very dangerous turn” in his state, the Times reported. The increase in the rate of positive coronavirus tests, to over 13 percent in the past month from less than 4 percent, is an “alarm bell,” he warned.
Coronavirus-related hospitalizations are also surging in that state, the Post reported.
A handful of states have actually brought the virus under control after being slammed in the early stages of the pandemic. Determined to keep case counts low, New York, Connecticut and New Jersey have said they will now mandate quarantines for travelers coming from 16 states that are experiencing large spikes in new cases, the Times said.
By Wednesday, the U.S. coronavirus case count passed 2.6 million as the death toll passed 127,000, according to a Times tally.
According to the same tally, the top five states in coronavirus cases as of Wednesday were: New York with over 398,000; California with more than 232,000; New Jersey with more than 173,500; Texas with almost 167,000 and Florida with over 152,000.
Vaccines and treatments
There has been some good news in recent weeks, however. Researchers at Oxford University in England announced that dexamethasone, a widely used, low-cost steroid, appears to cut the death rate for ventilated COVID-19 patients by one-third. It also lowered the death rate for patients who require oxygen (but are not yet on a ventilator) by one-fifth, the Times reported.
“Bottom line is, good news,” Fauci, who directs the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the Associated Press. “This is a significant improvement in the available therapeutic options that we have.”
But at least three manufacturers of the drug have reported shortages, according to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, STAT News reported. Two of the manufacturers cited increased demand as a reason for their shortages.
Meanwhile, the search for an effective vaccine continues. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has said that it would provide up to $1.2 billion to the drug company AstraZeneca to develop a potential coronavirus vaccine from Oxford University, in England.
The fourth, and largest, vaccine research agreement funds a clinical trial of the potential vaccine in the United States this summer with about 30,000 volunteers, the Times reported.
The goal? To make at least 300 million doses that could be available as early as October, the HHS said in a statement.
The United States has already agreed to provide up to $483 million to the biotech company Moderna and $500 million to Johnson & Johnson for their vaccine efforts. It is also providing $30 million to a virus vaccine effort led by the French company Sanofi, the Times reported. Moderna said a large clinical trial of its vaccine candidate could begin in July.
Nations grapple with pandemic
Elsewhere in the world, the situation remains challenging.
Even as the pandemic is easing in Europe and some parts of Asia, it is worsening in India. Officials in New Delhi plan to test all of the city’s 29 million residents in the next week or so, as the number of coronavirus cases passed 585,000 on Wednesday and pushed many hospitals to their breaking point, the Times reported.
Brazil has also become a hotspot in the coronavirus pandemic, with over 1.4 million confirmed infections by Wednesday, according to the Hopkins tally.
Cases are also spiking wildly in Russia: As of Wednesday, that country reported the world’s third-highest number of COVID-19 cases, at more than 653,000, the Hopkins tally showed.
Worldwide, the number of reported infections neared 10.5 million on Wednesday, with almost 512,000 deaths, according to the Hopkins tally.
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