CHICAGO – The United States, which reported its first known case of coronavirus in Washington state 282 days ago, topped the total of nine million infections on Thursday, including more than half a million during the week last, as Covid-19 got out of hand in the lead – until polling day.
Across the country, alarming signs suggested the worst was yet to come: more than 20 states reported more cases in the past week than at any time during the pandemic. The patients were sent to field hospitals in El Paso and suburb of Milwaukee. Growing outbreaks have led to new restrictions on businesses in Chicago. Exactly no state has reported a sustained decline in cases.
“There is no way to sweeten it – we are facing an urgent crisis and there is imminent risk to you, your family members, your friends, your neighbors,” said Governor Tony Evers of Wisconsin , where hospitals have been put to the test. the numbers have exploded and more than 200 coronavirus deaths were announced last week.
Following the presidential elections, the country recorded an average of more than 75,000 new cases per day, the worst extent of the pandemic by this measure. Deaths, which lag behind cases, remain well below their spring levels but have increased to around 780 each day. More cases have been identified in the United States than in any other country, although some countries have higher per capita infection rates.
“This outbreak is bigger than any other surge or surge we’ve seen yet,” said Amanda Simanek, epidemiologist at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Public Health, who said she was particularly concerned. With the number of cases increasing just as colder weather is forcing more people indoors, where the virus can spread easily. “This is the pattern that can continue to occur if we don’t remove the infection to manageable levels.”
Recent data is almost uniformly grim.
Twenty-one states added more cases in the seven-day period ending Wednesday than in any other seven-day period of the pandemic. In parts of Idaho and Kansas, officials have warned that there are few hospital beds left. In North Dakota, where more than 5% of the population has now tested positive, the number of cases continues to climb, with a one-day record of more than 1,200 new infections on Thursday. As the country reached nine million cases, experts lamented the lost opportunities that could have limited the spread.
“I think it’s surprising how quickly this has happened,” said Dr. Larry Chang, infectious disease specialist at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “I thought we would do a better job as a country by organizing and coming up with evidence-based national plans to mitigate this epidemic. So while I’m not surprised we hit that number, it happened a lot faster than I thought.
Katie Lafond, who runs a cafe in Milwaukee, said she worries about what winter might bring and is frustrated that some people seem oblivious to the growing risks.
“They don’t realize that everything is going up here,” Ms. Lafond said. “I don’t see this ending anytime soon as long as people continue to prioritize what they want to do over what needs to be done for the community.”
The latest nationwide hike began weeks ago in the Upper Midwest and the Western Mountain, but has now spread far beyond those areas. In the northeast, places like New Jersey and Rhode Island have seen an increase in the number of infections after months of stability. Kentucky and Pennsylvania are among the states with record numbers of cases. And in Texas, the situation around El Paso is so dire that authorities have ordered a curfew and some coronavirus patients have had to fly elsewhere.
All the while, there was a feeling that concerns about health risks have subsided since the early days of the virus, when lockdown orders were widespread. Businesses remain open in much of the country. Many students continue to take courses. There is no national mask mandate. And President Trump, who spoke hopefully about a vaccine, insisted that large crowds at campaign rallies said the country was “turning the corner.”
“It could have been avoided,” said Kaitlyn Urenda-Culpepper, whose mother died of the coronavirus this summer in El Paso and who said she was frustrated with the state and federal government response as ” his hometown was ransacked. ” She said, “My mother didn’t have to die.”
In the spring – when testing was limited, protective gear was scarce and the country sometimes averaged more than 2,000 deaths a day – the worst of the pandemic was concentrated in major cities in the northeast. This summer, when the number of cases reached an average of over 66,000 a day, the solar belt suffered the most. Today, despite an increase in testing and improved medical care, the rapidly growing outbreaks have spread across regional lines and have strained hospitals in both large and small towns.
“My biggest concern is not having the staff for the beds that we open,” said Dani Beebe, a nurse in an intensive care unit at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, Utah. “We are already envisioning a future reality where every doctor we have takes care of Covid patients, whatever their specialty.”
Ms Beebe said health workers have learned a lot about strategies for managing Covid-19 patients since the start of the pandemic, but that “it’s definitely worse now” due to the growing number of patients. hospitalizations.
“We are making our scale-up plans, but people are already dying,” Ms. Beebe said. “You think they’re getting better and one day later they are fighting for their life or needing care for weeks.”
Catherine Troisi, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the Health Science Center at the University of Texas at Houston, said the country’s response had been hampered by politicians’ refusal to follow recommendations from health officials.
“We have pandemic fatigue, everyone is fed up, right?” Said Dr. Troisi. “But you know what, the virus doesn’t care.”
Mitch smith reported from Chicago, Simon romero by Truth or Consequences, NM, and Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio from Milwaukee.