The number of new daily coronavirus cases in the United States has surged over the last week with such numbers not seen since early May.
More than 34,000 new cases were recorded across the US on June 23, with the number jumping north of 40,000 from June 25-28, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The number dropped on Monday and Tuesday, but was it was still above 35,000 on both days.
This has sparked fears and has forced several states to reimpose lockdowns that were lifted in recent weeks.
The top US government expert on diseases warned Tuesday that the country could see close to 100,000 new cases per day if the proper safety measures are not taken by residents.
“I am very concerned because it could get very bad,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told a Senate committee panel.
Fauci also warned that there was no guarantee a “safe and effective vaccine” would be readily available to all.
Dr. Fadi Salloum, professor of medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Health, said that Fauci may have been “overshooting a bit,” but in the extreme cases and with some of the 50 states registering more than 3,000 new cases per day “it may not be far off eventually.”
Last Friday, the CDC said levels of influenza-like illness and coronavirus-like illness were lower than the peaks seen in March and April, “but are increasing in several regions.”
In its weekly report, the center added: “The percentage of specimens testing positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, also increased from [the previous week].”
There have been 2.5 million cases in the US and 126,739 confirmed deaths since the start of the coronavirus.
July 4 celebration fears and reopening of states
Doctors fear that the upcoming July 4th weekend will further exacerbate the declining health situation.
The day in which Americans celebrate Independence Day falls on a Saturday this year, and Friday will be national holiday for most. Firework shows and family gatherings are a tradition, which also presents an opportunity for people to gather along coastlines and beaches - something doctors who spoke to Al Arabiya English fear will lead to another jump in coronavirus cases.
Already, Texas and Florida put the brakes on their plans to reopen. Last Friday, the governors in both ordered bars to immediately close down.
In California, Disney announced that Disneyland’s initial plans to reopen on July 17 would be put off until further notice. In Los Angeles, 2,779 new cases were registered, making the total 103,529 on Tuesday, according to Reuters.
Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence voiced his support for the decision of governors to pause their reopening.
Dr. Michel Debs, an internal medicine doctor in Ohio, said that the virus was still not being taken seriously by many. He distanced Fauci’s prediction of 100,000 deaths per day but said, “He’s raising the bar because a lot of people don’t think this thing is real,” Debs told Al Arabiya English.
The spike in cases is due to the 20-49 age group, according to Debs.
“The early reopening of bars and restaurants with people not social distancing led to this surge in cases. They’re not being careful and it has a trickle effect on older people with their parents or grandparents being home,” he said.
Salloum said that many people are taking the reopening of states as a sign of the situation getting better.
“Just because we move to the next phase of reopening, it does not mean that you have to. The next phase strictly means that we are more prepared, but you need to continue working from home or staying home,” unless there is an emergency, Salloum said.
Increased number of positive cases, decrease in deaths
Nevertheless, the number of cases continues to increase but there has been a sharp decrease in deaths.
This, Debs and Salloum said, was due to early treatment and a change in methods.
“Steroids are being used early on with patients and there has been less intubating than originally,” Debs said.
Salloum noted the increase in testing. “We have way more global testing now and the number of people dying may be the same but it is out of a larger population than before.”
Additionally, deaths among the older population, which is one of the most vulnerable groups, have gone down.
“The reason behind this is that they have become more cautious. The mortality rate is still high, but for it to go down from 23 percent in Ohio to 5 percent says something,” the Ohio doctor added.
In Virginia, for example, the overall number of new cases increased, but the state’s health department noted that there was a decrease in the percentage of positive test results. According to a report in the Richmond Times Dispatch, the seven-day average for percentage of positive test results was at 6 percent on June 26. This number was at 22 percent on April 19, the paper said.
“It really is a mess. People need to understand that it’s a real threat and you can’t eradicate the virus if it exists in hosts. You can’t let your guard down,” Salloum said.