July 4th Weekend a Time for Reckoning

As the U.S. celebrates its 245th birthday, the nation's top infectious disease expert issued a stern warning—the U.S. is on a path to having 100,000 Americans infected daily with Covid-19. In Florida, another expert warns that time is running out.

Read Time: 3 minutes

July 6, 2020, 11:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid

4th of July parade

The Census Bureau made an appearance in a car parade in Coral Springs, Florida on July 4, 2020. | YES Market Media / Shutterstock

"The United States may soon record as many as 100,000 new cases of Covid-19 a day if the current trajectory of the outbreak is not changed, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Anthony Fauci, warned on Tuesday," wrote Helen Branswell for STAT on June 30. “'Clearly we are not in total control right now,' Fauci told the committee, warning that far worse conditions are ahead without new efforts to tamp down spread."

Over 35,000 Covid-19 cases were reported on June 29, the day Fauci and three other leaders of the Trump administration's response to the pandemic appeared before the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.  Since July 1, new case daily totals have exceeded 50,000, with each day setting a new record. On July 3, almost 57,500 cases were reported, according to The Washington Post coronavirus tracker.

Florida also set a record that day, not just for it but for any state's daily total since New York recorded 11,755 cases on April 15.

"The Florida Department of Health receives lab test results each day," reported WTSP on Saturday (July 4). "On Friday, it recorded a single-day record of 11,458 new COVID-19 cases."

It's been 11 days since the state recorded any new daily total below 5,000 new cases. The uptick in cases is making national headlines and recently forced Florida to suspend drinking at bars to combat the spread of the virus.

"The fact of the matter is this is a moment of reckoning," wrote the director of PolicyLab, David Rubin, with researchers Gregory Tasian and Jing Huang. PolicyLab at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in mid-June predicted that Florida would be the nation's new coronavirus hot spot.

Two weeks earlier was the first time that the Sunshine State shattered the 4,000 case ceiling. Dr. Jay Wolfson with the University of South Florida (USF) Public Health then predicted that "between six to 18 thousand new cases a day can be expected for Florida by the second week of July."

WTSP distinguished total cases from the test positivity rate to debunk President Trump's false claim that the increased cases are simply a result of increased testing.

Yes, we are testing a significant amount of people. The number of new test results submitted to the state on Friday was a record-breaking 85,086.

However, we tested 41,000 people on June 5 and 1,253 people -- or 3 percent -- came back positive. The state received those 85,086 lab results for people on July 3, and 14.1 percent had the virus. So, the rate of infection is higher than it was a month ago.

In fact, the rate nearly quadrupled in 4 weeks, illustrating exponential growth. WTSP observed "a sobering statistic: almost 51 percent of our overall case total in Florida, which is up to 190,052 cases, has come in the last 14 days."

Last chance?

“We have perhaps one more chance to get this right,” said Aileen Marty, an infectious-disease specialist at Florida International University, report Isaac Stanley-BeckerChelsea Janes and Rachel Weiner for The Washington Post (source article).

“This weekend, the next week-and-a-half, perhaps the next two weeks are make or break,” said Marty, a former Navy physician whose dire warnings were circulated in a letter this week among Miami-Dade commissioners. “If we don’t massively change our behavior right now, to stop facilitating the transmission of the virus, then we are facing either another lockdown or a massive number of hospitalizations and deaths.”

If the rate of increase in the U.S. follows that of Florida, it will meet Fauci's prediction in two weeks. As for hospitalizations of Covid-19 patients, the Post reports on Saturday that Arizona, Texas, Montana, South Carolina, Mississippi and California reported new highs, threatening the ability of hospitals to treat patients suffering from Covid-19.

Related in Planetizen:

Hat tip to The Washington Post Coronavirus Updates.

Friday, July 3, 2020 in The Washington Post

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