The United States is in the midst of one of the most severe outbreaks of the coronavirus to date, with more new cases reported across the country on Friday than any other day since the start of the pandemic.
Since early October, the increase in cases has been regular and inexorable, with no plateau in sight. As of Friday evening, more than 79,000 cases had been reported across the country, breaking a single-day record set on July 16 by more than 3,000 cases.
According to the measure, Friday was the worst day for the pandemic, and health experts have warned of another outbreak as cold weather sets in. The number of people hospitalized with Covid-19 has already increased by 40 percent last month. Deaths have remained relatively stable but are often a lagging indicator.
The latest outbreaks, followed by The New York Times using reports from state and local health departments, are scattered across the country, with states like Illinois and Rhode Island experiencing a second recovery, and in places like Montana and South Dakota, which always experience an initial flood of cases.
Thirteen states added more new confirmed cases of coronavirus in the past week than in any other seven-day period. Six states had set or tied weekly records for new deaths as of Friday. Wisconsin experienced its deadliest day in the pandemic on Wednesday, with 47 total deaths reported.
The geography of the pandemic has constantly changed since the coronavirus reached the United States last winter. Outbreaks hit the Northeast in the spring, the Sun Belt in the summer, and now the Midwestern and Western states, which hold the country’s 10 counties with the most recent cases per capita.
“It’s been increase after increase after increase, week after week,” said Dr. Tom Inglesby, director of the Center for Health Security at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Nothing has been added to the mix that will slow things down.”
For many, the surge in numbers has brought back jagged memories of what it was like in mid-July, when the virus raged through the solar belt.
Raymond Embry saw the worst up close. His small medical clinic in Arizona performed about five coronavirus tests a day. That rose to dozens a day, then came the July 16 outbreak, with 4,192 people lined up for tests to see if they had the coronavirus.
That day, arguably the worst pandemic in the United States to date, set nationwide records. By the end of that 24-hour period, 75,687 new cases had been reported in the country and Arizona led the country in per capita deaths.
“It was just overwhelming trying to find gloves and masks, when especially back then people are telling you that PPE is widely available and that is all a lie.” Mr Embry said, referring to the shortage of personal protective equipment health workers need to safely do tests.
On the Texas-Mexico border, mid-July was a nightmare. Johnny Salinas Jr., the owner of Salinas Funeral Home, attended six to seven funerals a day, a number he would usually see more than a week before the pandemic. Some of these included family members and relatives of employees.
Local health officials had said they were successful in controlling the spread of the virus in the spring, until Texas lifted social distancing restrictions just before Memorial Day. Then the numbers skyrocketed. In July, Hidalgo County, where Mr. Salinas lives, had one of the highest per capita death rates in the state. This caught Mr. Salinas off guard.
“We didn’t know what to expect,” Salinas said. “We didn’t know much about the virus. It was killing a lot of people at the time.
These days, he stores masks, gloves and hand sanitizer, seals every other bench in chapels to maintain social distancing, and installs a plexiglass barrier to protect those grieving for the deceased.
“For now, we are back to normal numbers,” Salinas said. “But I’m nervous. People relax a bit too much. I believe a second wave will come and it will be scarier than the first.
The virus had already become deeply politicized by the summer and, in this regard, the headlines that were made on July 16 were not surprising.
As Georgia went through what was then its worst week in the pandemic, Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, sued the mayor of Atlanta, a Democrat, for the city’s mask term. Republican Party officials told delegates in a letter sent that day that they were scaling back plans for the convention in Florida, which at the time was reporting more than 10,000 new cases a day (the convention would eventually withdraw altogether of Florida).
During press conferences on July 16, some Republican governors were emphatically optimistic in places enduring the worst period of the pandemic, while some Democratic governors spoke with deep concern about the state of the country. epidemic, not knowing that the numbers in their states would go far. worst.
“What we’re seeing across the country is alarming,” Democrat Gov. Andy Beshear of Kentucky said at a July 16 news conference, a day the state reported 469 new cases. Kentucky reported 1,288 new confirmed infections on Tuesday, nearly three times the number on the day of the governor’s speech.
But in some other parts of the country that day, the virus felt far away.
On July 16, cities in North Dakota held their annual summer festivals. People cheered the rodeos and danced together, without masks, in the streets.
Erin Ourada, administrator of Custer Health, a public health unit just west of Bismarck, watched with concern.
“I don’t think the reality has touched the majority of North Dakota,” Ms. Ourada said. It was even hard to think back to that summer time, she said this week, when “everyone was still living their lives and getting ready for the next street dance he was going to throw.”
As the country hit a record high on Friday, experts worried about what the coming weeks might bring.
Testing has become more available in recent months, and administering more tests can often reveal cases that might otherwise go unnoticed. But experts said the increase in the number of cases currently cannot simply be explained by additional testing. Even though cases of the virus are on the rise, deaths have remained relatively stable at around 775 per day.
Yet in North Dakota this week, hospitals are scrambling to find available beds. The state now has the worst infection rate in the country, relative to its population, and it is ending official contact tracing except in health care facilities, schools and colleges. Members of the National Guard are calling people to tell them they have tested positive.
This is what she saw coming when the number of cases started to rise steadily at the end of July, said Ms. Ourada, “and we have been living in this situation ever since.
Mitch smith, Amy Harmon and Sarah Mervosh contribution to reports.