- The US's epidemic curve is shooting upward, and the number of daily COVID-19 deaths has started to creep up, too.
- Yet Trump and Pence still deny that there's a problem.
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At this point, the numbers speak for themselves.
The coronavirus killed nearly 1,000 Americans on Tuesday, then another 950 on Wednesday the highest daily death counts reported in a month. More than 43,000 Americans are hospitalized with severe COVID-19 cases, up from 31,000 four weeks ago. The country broke its own record for daily infections yet again on Tuesday, with more than 60,000 new cases.
This is not, as President Donald Trump continues to claim, simply a reflection of increased testing that would not explain the rising hospitalizations and deaths.
Instead, what has come is a moment of reckoning: The deadly consequences of reopening too early, eschewing masks, and being too slow to ramp up testing and contact tracing are revealing themselves. Expert after expert warned about this a couple of months ago, and now it's too late.
New projections from the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation suggest that 80,000 more people in the US are expected to die of COVID-19 between now and November more than a 60% increase from where our death toll stands now, at 132,000.
The US's curve never really went down
Three months ago, at the prior peak of the coronavirus outbreak, 36,000 people were being diagnosed per day. That number was unthinkably high. In the last two weeks, the record for new cases reported on a single day was broken six times. The chart below shows the seven-day rolling average.
Experts who described the possibility of a second wave assumed the US would see a precipitous decline in cases and deaths, as most other countries have. Instead, the nightmare of our first wave continues to snowball.
"We went up, never came down to baseline, and now we're surging back up, so it's a serious situation that we have to address immediately," Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an online talk on Monday.
The US has now reported roughly one-quarter of the world's coronavirus cases and deaths , despite representing less than 5% of the global population. Countries in the European Union have banned Americans from visiting.
Experts know what to expect in the wake of an infection surge like this: A few weeks after cases rise, hospitalizations creep up. Then come deaths.
"If somebody is infected and then has the risk of getting sick and being hospitalized and dying that whole trajectory takes a number of weeks at least, maybe up to a month or more," Dr. Howard Koh, a professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told Business Insider on Wednesday .
The most dire phases of that trend are arriving. On Monday, the mayors of Houston and Austin issued an urgent warning: State hospitals will be overwhelmed within two weeks if the virus isn't brought under control.
"In places where cases are rising, hospitalizations are increasing, too," Koh said.
Arizona, Florida, and Texas are already seeing their daily death counts rise.
US leadership continues to ignore this reality
If increased testing were the only factor at play, as Trump says , the percentage of tests coming back positive in the US should be staying flat or dropping. Instead, 27 states have reported upticks in that positivity rate . The US has also found itself in the midst of another testing shortage , as testing stations, labs, and suppliers struggle to keep pace with the rising demand.
But the premature loosening of lockdowns is what got us back into this mess in the first place.
"What we did wrong was to start to open things back up too soon," John Swartzberg, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of California, Berkeley, previously told Business Insider .
California lifted restrictions while daily case numbers were still rising (as did about 20 other states). As of Tuesday, the state's daily average for new cases had more than quadrupled compared to spring numbers.
Fauci told The Hill on Thursday that while he hopes affected states "don't have to resort to shut down," he thinks states should close places where large numbers of people gather, like bars, and mandate mask wearing.
It's unlikely that President Trump will issue or enforce any such rules, though. That leaves two possibilities: Either governors take quick, aggressive action, or we watch in dismay as deaths keep ticking up.
Aria Bendix, Holly Secon, and Hilary Brueck contributed reporting to this story.
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