The first death in the US was reported on February 29. The country reached 50,000 deaths 54 days later on April 23 and 34 days later on May 27 crossed 100,000 deaths. It has taken 63 days to add another 50,000 to reach the 150,000 mark.
“I think the fact that we as a country have not been able to get our arms around this, have not prioritized preventing those deaths is all that much more maddening. And so, for me it’s frustration, it’s sadness. And a resolve to try to figure out how we prevent the next 150,000,” Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.
“I think we can but we’re really going to have to work for it,” he added.
Some states are seeing their highest death tolls. California on Wednesday reported 197 Covid-related deaths in a single day, according to state Department of Public Health. That total far outpaces the previous high of 159, recorded just last week.
Florida reported a record 216 deaths on Wednesday.
Nationwide, the seven-day moving average of daily deaths rose above 1,000 on Tuesday — the first time since June 2.
And in 29 states, average number of daily deaths were at least 10% higher over the previous week, according to Johns Hopkins data.
Disease trends in the US are mixed: Deaths are increasing and hospitalizations are at or near peak levels, though new, daily reported infections are declining slightly.
But health experts have warned the death rate likely would rise as it is now, as a lagging consequence of a large spike in cases weeks earlier especially in the South and West.
Infectious disease experts say the country is at a critical juncture, as debates about how and whether to reopen schools for in-person learning rumble on.
Case rates rose as businesses reopened and distancing rules relaxed in late spring, and those wanting more normalcy soon should get more disciplined now by wearing masks, limiting outdoor dining and social gatherings, and closing bars, Dr. Anthony Fauci said.
“It’s not going to spontaneously come down,” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Tuesday in a call with several governors about the pandemic.
US should reset, Johns Hopkins experts say
The United States needs to restart its response with policy actions at the federal, state and local levels to get control of the pandemic, scholars at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security said in a report.
“Unlike many countries in the world, the United States is not currently on course to get control of this epidemic,” the report says. “It is time to reset.”
The report includes 10 recommendations that include universal mask mandates, federal leadership to improve testing and, in places where rates of transmission are worsening, stay-at-home orders.
The report says federal, state and local leaders should mandate non-medical mask use in public and limit large indoor gatherings.
States should stop high risk activities and settings in areas that have rising test positivity, but no signs of crisis in hospitals or rising deaths. In areas where the situation is worse, stay-at-home orders should be reinstated, the report says.
The report points to improved testing being vital. The US response to the epidemic will be severely constrained without a reliable and efficient testing system, the report says.
One of the things the authors suggest to combat this is having the federal government work with states and commercial labs to identify and overcome obstacles to getting quick test results.
The report also gives recommendations about personal protective equipment, epidemiological data, funding research agendas, contact tracing, identifying best practices for improving public health response and developing policies and practices to protect group institutions.
Group: Take these steps, or see deaths skyrocket
A leading medical education association had a similar urgent warning, saying deaths in the United States could skyrocket “well into the multiple hundreds of thousands.”
“Decisive, coordinated action is urgently needed to save lives, end the pandemic, restore America’s economy, and return our lives to normalcy,” Dr. David Skorton, AAMC president and CEO, said Wednesday.
It did not say when this tally might be reached, or forecast the number more precisely.
It urges the Trump administration to invoke the Defense Production Act, or determine other means, to solve critical shortages in Covid-19 testing supplies and personal protective equipment; and to set targets for stockpiling supplies.
It also suggests ramping up Covid-19 testing capacity to more than 2 million a day and reducing the turnaround time for test results.
The AAMC says it represents all accredited medical schools in the United States and 17 in Canada, as well as 400 teaching hospitals.
Drug rumors distracting from ‘most powerful weapon’
But the drug has not been shown to be effective against coronavirus, and can even produce harmful side effects, former US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday.
“All the time that we often end up spending dispelling these myths around hydroxychloroquine is time that we are not spending working on solving the actual problem in front of us,” Murthy said.
And measures already in place to combat the virus’ spread could be the key to solving the problem, the US Centers of Disease Control and Prevention’s Director Dr. Robert Redfield said Tuesday in an interview with ABC news.
“We have the most powerful weapon in our hands right now, I mean it’s an enormously powerful weapon. It’s just a simple, flimsy mask,” Redfield said. “This virus can be defeated if people just wear a mask.”
Numbers on the decline after face mask requirements
Although some states continue to see surges and set records in the numbers of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, Tuesday’s total of new cases across the nation stood at 61,660, slightly lower than at this point last week.
Kentucky, a state that is among the at least 41 to require masks, reported 532 new cases Tuesday and a 5.08% positivity rate, which has gone down for the first time in four days, Gov. Andy Beshear said.
“Again, too early to draw conclusions, but I hope I’ve said, I hope that this is us starting to see, because the time period is right, where the facial covering requirement is starting to kick in and help,” Beshear added.
In Florida, where daily new cases are declining, state officials reported a record in daily deaths for a second straight day. The state Wednesday reported 216 deaths, surpassing the previous high of 186 reported a day earlier.
CNN’s Naomi Thomas, Brandon Miller, Andrea Kane, Annie Grayer, Maggie Fox, and Rebekah Riess contributed to this report.
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