Warning signs flash ahead of Covid’s second US winter; more deaths expected

Data collected by the Covid Tracking Project shows that the number of people hospitalized has plateaued at about 30,000 in the past week, after a decline from nearly 60,000 that began in late July.
A volunteer places American flags representing some of the 200,000 lives lost in the United States in the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic on the National Mall in Washington.(REUTERS)
A volunteer places American flags representing some of the 200,000 lives lost in the United States in the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic on the National Mall in Washington.(REUTERS)
Updated on Sep 29, 2020 06:35 AM IST
Copy Link
ByBloomberg | Posted by Arpan Rai

Public health officials in the US could take heart at the end of the summer. Even as the new coronavirus continued to spread, fewer people were winding up in the hospital because of Covid-19, and fewer were dying.

Now, as the seasons turn, there are signs suggesting there will be more deaths and serious illness ahead.

Data collected by the Covid Tracking Project shows that the number of people hospitalized has plateaued at about 30,000 in the past week, after a decline from nearly 60,000 that began in late July. Deaths, meanwhile, averaged about 750 over the seven days through Sunday, higher than the roughly 600 deaths a day in the first week of July.

Scientists had hoped that a warm-weather reprieve could soften an expected re-emergence of the coronavirus in the colder months. Instead, the contagion continued to spread across the country after Memorial Day, with early-summer outbreaks in Sun Belt states followed by the recent surge of new infections in the Upper Midwest and on college campuses nationwide.

Any indication hospitals are attending to more coronavirus patients is likely to reignite concerns that the health-care system could be overwhelmed by new cases as the weather cools and more activities, including school and holiday socializing, move indoors.

History and science suggest the second winter with coronavirus is likely to be worse than the first. The pathogen is more entrenched and most respiratory viruses circulate primarily in the winter months.

“We haven’t had exposure to Covid throughout an entire winter, when more people are indoors and close together for prolonged periods,” said William Schaffner, an infectious disease professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. “We are certainly concerned that Covid could spread even more readily in the winter than it has so far.”

More Testing

The Trump administration has pointed to the increasing availability of coronavirus tests as the reason the number of new cases in the US remains high. Diagnostics manufacturers are now shipping more than 1.2 million tests nationwide each day, up from 600,000 at the start of May, according to AdvaMed, a trade group for the medical-technology industry.

Increased testing has also made it possible to catch coronavirus cases earlier. That, combined with improved hospital care and medicines like Gilead Sciences Inc.’s remdesivir and generic steroid dexamethasone, allowed more patients to survive their infections this summer.

However, a week-long plateau in new cases, hospitalizations and deaths are an early warning that things could be about to get worse. Along with the resumption of school, more states are easing curbs on restaurants and bars, giving the virus more chances to find vulnerable people to infect. Last week, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis lifted capacity limits on restaurants and other businesses.

“It’s not complicated to explain. All of that opening up, so many people taking off their masks, gathering together in bars and parties, going back to the old normal,” Schaffner said. “We should not be surprised that we are seeing an increase in Covid again. Covid loves that environment.”

States that had been doing well, including New York, which was wracked early on by the virus, are seeing a new surge. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said there were 868 new cases in the state on Sept. 27, an 18% increase from two weeks earlier. A higher percentage of those getting tested are now coming back positive, suggesting the amount of virus in the community is on the rise.

Cases in Kids

Similar increases are happening among the nation’s children, as more than 56 million returned to school this month. More than a quarter of a million children were infected with coronavirus from March through Sept. 19, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While those hardest hit were more likely to have other conditions, about three of every four who were hospitalized, needed intensive care or died had no other health concerns, the CDC said.

The number of cases among children has increased dramatically since the start of September, when many went back to school in person at least part time.

Coronavirus cases in those 19 and younger have increased three-fold since May, according to the CDC, suggesting they may play an increasingly important role in community transmission even if their individual risk of serious illness is low.

“School studies suggest that in-person learning can be safe in communities with low SARS-CoV-2 transmission rates, but might increase transmission risk in communities where transmission is already high,” the agency said in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Topics
US
US
Close Story
QUICKREADS

Less time to read?

Try Quickreads

  • Police fire teargas to disperse supporters of Pakistan's key opposition party marching toward Islamabad, in Lahore, Pakistan, on Wednesday, 

    Imran Khan's ‘Azadi March’ turns violent as cops fire tear gas | Top updates

    Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf supporters and the Lahore Police clashed on Wednesday as the former managed to push their way through the containers deployed on the streets and braved tear gas shelling after answering the ousted prime minister's call for a long march onto Islamabad.

  • UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet (left) attending a virtual meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping, in Guangzhou. (AFP)

    There’s no ‘utopia’, no need to lecture on rights, Xi Jinping tells UN human rights chief

    Chinese President Xi Jinping defended China's record in a meeting with UN's top human rights official on Wednesday, saying there is no “flawless utopia” and criticised countries that lecture others on human rights and politicise the issue. Xi and Bachelet meeting comes in the backdrop of fresh allegations of systemic abuse carried out by the Chinese government against the minority Muslim UIghurs in Xinjiang. Beijing has denied the allegations.

  • JKLF leader Yasin Malik.

    ‘Release Yasin Malik…’: Pak foreign minister writes to UN human rights chief

    Pakistan foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has written to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to urge India to acquit Kashmiri separatist leader Yasin Malik from all charges and ensure his immediate release from prison so that he can be reunited with his family.

  • Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. (File image)

    'Our relations with India not moving forward, but one day...': Pak minister 

    Pakistan foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Wednesday said he anticipated a day when his country could engage India not just for diplomatic reasons but also economic. Zardari was quoted by news agency PTI as acknowledging Pak's relations with India have not been 'moving forward'. The minister said the best way forward on domestic and international levels is to leave aside political bickering and explore and unlock his country's huge untapped potential.

  • All of these initiatives came against the backdrop of lingering differences among Quad partners over the situation in Ukraine. 

    Key initiatives of Quad Summit that position it as a counterweight to China 

    A new satellite-based initiative that will link naval facilities in India, Singapore and the South Pacific and allow Indo-Pacific countries to track illegal fishing and “dark shipping” is one of the most significant steps taken by the Quad since its revival in 2017. These initiatives appear clearly aimed at positioning the Quad, which groups India, Australia, Japan and the US, as a counterweight to China's increasing influence and assertive in the region.

SHARE
Story Saved
×
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Wednesday, May 25, 2022