Coronavirus surges show worst is yet to come


By Reid Wilson, The Hill



Surging coronavirus cases across the country are threatening to explode into new epicenters as the hard-won progress earned by months of painful lockdowns unravels into a summer of lost opportunity.


More than 4 million people in the United States have tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2, and 140,000 have died.


After wrestling the virus down to as few as 17,000 new cases a day in the first days of June, the daily case count has surged to heights even greater than those reached in the worst days of March, April and May. The United States has averaged 66,000 cases a day in the last week, its highest seven-day average and twice as high as the average in late June.


Across the nation, more than 59,000 people are in hospitals being treated for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. More than 1,000 Americans have died on each of the last two days, a threshold not reached since late May.


A month ago, about 30,000 Americans were in hospitals, and the country was averaging more than 500 deaths a day.


“Hospitals now are back in the same territory that they were at their peak in April,” said Jeremy Konyndyk, who ran USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance and is now a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development. “That will almost certainly continue to go up for the next few weeks, because the number of cases is up.”


President Trump, who spent months downplaying the severity of an unprecedented virus, acknowledged Tuesday that the worse of the pandemic is yet to come.


“Some areas of our country are doing very well; others are doing less well,” said Trump, who finds himself badly trailing presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden largely because of disapproval of his handling of the pandemic. “It will probably, unfortunately, get worse before it gets better — something I don't like saying about things, but that's the way it is.”


There are signs that physicians are getting better at treating the novel pathogen, and that more widespread testing is identifying cases that earlier would have gone overlooked. The share of people who test positive and die has fallen.


But the number of daily dead and the number of people who require hospitalization for treatment are lagging indicators, and both threaten to rise as case counts multiply. Those who are diagnosed today may not require hospitalization for two more weeks, and those who are hospitalized might not die for another two weeks.


Konyndyk warned that the number of hospitalizations and deaths will not plateau or begin to decline until weeks after the number of cases begins to drop. Today, they are still on the rise across the country.


The pandemic landed in just a few epicenters — New York, Seattle and San Francisco — at the beginning of this year, and numbers have eased in those early hot spots. There also are hopeful signs that the worst is past in newer epicenters like Phoenix and Houston.


But Americans traveling during the summer months, letting their guard down and abandoning social distancing practices has meant new embers are erupting into conflagrations elsewhere...


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