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The U.S. in Free Fall

The U.S. has over 2.9 million COVID-19 cases; half of them were diagnosed in the past week and a half. On July 6, cases are increasing in 32 states, holding steady in 14, and decreasing in four.
July 7, 2020, 11am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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Transit in a Pandemic
Kevin Benckendorf

"We are in free fall," Dr. Rochelle Walensky, chief of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital, told CNN on Monday night. Walensky is observing what is happening nationally, not in the Bay State, one of only four states where COVID-19 cases are decreasing.

"At least 32 states are reporting higher rates of new cases this week compared to last week, according to Johns Hopkins University data: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin," report Christina MaxourisHolly Yan, and Amir Vera.

In 14 states, the rates of new infections are generally holding steady: Arkansas, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Wyoming.

And only four states are seeing decreases in the rates of new cases: Connecticut, Kentucky, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, expressed the same dire assessment of the pandemic as Walensky. 

"We're breaking records almost every day here in the state of Texas. People are piling into hospitals, into ICUs (intensive care units). We can't really keep going at this rate," he said.

"And it's not only happening in Texas, of course. It's happening in Florida, Arizona. We're starting to see now a similar situation unfold on the Gulf Coast. And now we're starting to see this in the Upper Midwest and in Tennessee as well."

COVID-19 is not harmless

Hotez also corrected President Trump's assertion during his Fourth of July speech that 99 percent of COVID-19 cases "are totally harmless." 

"We know 15% to 20% of patients are hospitalized, and of those, about half go in intensive care with permanent injury," he said.

"While the World Health Organization has said the global fatality rate is likely less than 1%, the WHO also said about 20% of all people who are diagnosed with coronavirus are sick enough to need oxygen or hospital care," noted CNN in a separate piece on July 5 that centered on U.S. Food and Drug Administration commissioner Stephen Hahn's refusal to set the record straight on Trump's claim.

As for the case-fatality rate, which applies to confirmed Covid-19 cases, it is 4.5% in the U.S. on July 6, according to Our World in Data.

What awaits

The last word goes to Dr. Walensky who reminds us that "there are 300 million people in this country who remain susceptible and have been uninfected so far, and this virus is far from running out of people to infect. And until we change our behavior to prevent these infections, the infections are going to continue to soar."

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Published on Monday, July 6, 2020 in CNN
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