The Biggest Surge of COVID-19 in America Yet
America may be forced to stay at home again.
Siann Han | 12/10/20
A Second Lockdown?
Lately, every day has been a new record for the number of daily coronavirus cases in the U.S. Before this fall season, the highest number of new coronavirus cases was in the 70,000 range. During the Spring, it was in the 30,000’s. Now? America is looking at a groundbreaking high of 230,000 new COVID cases in one day. That is 15 million cumulative cases and 286,000 deaths.
Fortunately, while the cases have been on the rise, the mortality rate of the coronavirus has sizably decreased. Many speculate that this is due to the current patient pool. As opposed to the onset of the pandemic when the coronavirus may have spread among more vulnerable populations like nursing homes and those that were already immunocompromised, the coronavirus may now spread more frequently to younger populations who have lower mortality rates. Patients that are 0-4 years old are nine times less likely to meet fatal ends from the coronavirus than those who are 18-29 years old. Likewise, patients in the 65-74 age group are 90 times more susceptible to fatalities in comparison to the 18-29 age group. In addition, many doctors say that they generally know more about how to treat sick patients and have standardized an approach to treating COVID.
According to The COVID Tracking Project, there have been three “waves” of coronavirus, meaning there were three significant peaks in cases. Around April 9th, there were 35,000 new COVID cases daily. However, this number steadily decreased to 17,000 around June 8th. After this, the numbers began to go back up and reached 76,000 in mid-July. Once again, this number decreased and reached a low point of around 30,000. In September, the number of cases drastically spiked, and this third peak continues today.
Why have the cases increased?
Many people believe that schools reopening in September directly caused the newest rise in cases. However, this assumption is not backed up by any evidence. Schools are not likely to be COVID hotspots since children are low-risk potential victims. Nonetheless, it is important to remember that this kind of “COVID immunity” decreases as one gets older which is why older students are more likely to get the virus.
Two recent studies demonstrate that there is no significant correlation between the reopening of K-12 schools and coronavirus cases. According to Enric Álvarez at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, in Spain, the second wave of cases began even before schools reopened and in some regions, coronavirus cases even dropped while students continued to attend in-person school.
So why is the number of cases escalating now? For one, during the summer months, COVID regulations were pretty flexible in most states. Around the end of April, states began to lift the mandatory lockdown and reopened restaurants, businesses, places of worship, and more, just with the necessary COVID precautions. Now, America has been forced to tighten restrictions, but they vary by state. For example, California has already implemented the same stay at home order from the spring while Tennessee recently repealed coronavirus-related business restrictions.
Scientists have also warned that this coming season may be one of the worst winters in terms of public health. According to NPR, up to 170,000 more people could die due to COVID between now and February. Studies show that SARS-Co-V-2 also tends to favor drier, colder areas, specifically out of direct sunlight. This is why artificial ultraviolet radiation can inactivate COVID particles. Moreover, infectious diseases in general usually wane quicker in hot and humid conditions.
Another reason is just human behavior. The cold seasons usually mean that more people stay indoors, in places with poorer ventilation which could further the transmission of COVID.
While a second lockdown looks likely, this can be prevented if we follow the necessary precautions. Of course, mask-wearing, social distancing, and washing hands are fundamentally important, and we can also encourage our friends and families to stay home. Especially during the holiday season when loved ones are tempted to gather, remaining COVID safe is important. Furthermore, staying updated on the coronavirus situation and regulations in one’s area is also essential. Dr. Han, a pulmonologist in New Jersey, reminds everyone that “it is important to remember that the guidelines for isolation during the pandemic are not just there to protect you, but also you and your community. We will only be able to get through this pandemic if we work together.”