- The United States has entered its third wave of coronavirus infections. New cases are eating up in the Midwest.
- Public health experts fear this wave could be the biggest and perhaps deadliest yet.
- One expected an increase in cases and admissions, they added, as lockdowns have been lifted, people are spending more time indoors, and “pandemic fatigue” has begun.
- Visit the Business Insider website for more stories.
Seventeen US states have reported more new cases of coronavirus in the last week than any week before. The country’s seven-day average of new cases has risen by about 25% since October 1
“I am not a doomsday person: but this is the beginning of the wave,” wrote Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency physician at Brown University, on Thursday on Twitter.
In fact, the United States has entered its third major wave of infections – one expert worries that it could end up being the largest. The reason, they say, is a combination of factors: Lockdown measures have been lifted, more people are spending time indoors when the weather gets cold, residents feel tired of security measures, and cases never dropped adequately.
“If rates never get so low and basic public health measures are not universally adopted, and then you bring people indoors to share a meal together, you’re kind of putting together the perfect storm,” said Ingrid Katz, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. , told Business Insider. “Unfortunately, this was completely expected.”
In fact, the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) predicted in August that more than 20 states would have to reintroduce lockdown measures by December, including closing non-essential corporations and reintroducing home orders. Their model predicts that at least 175,000 more people in the United States could die by February 1st. That would make this third wave the deadliest yet.
“The infections that will fill our hospital in 2 weeks have already been transmitted,” Ranney said. “Wear a mask and get ready to come down again.”
Pandemic fatigue has arrived
During the first wave of the spring, U.S. affairs were concentrated in the Northeast. By the second wave this summer, cases had migrated to the South and Sunbelt. Cases are now concentrated in the Midwest, but the virus is more widespread than ever before – after all, it has had 10 months to spread.
What remains the same, however, is that the United States continues to be hampered by inadequate contact tracking and a widespread distrust of scientific recommendations.
“We still do not have a nationally coordinated response. We still have a lot of misinformation about simple, basic public health behaviors, like wearing a mask that we know is effective,” Katz said, adding, “in a way, we are fighting two pandemics. – COVID itself and, of course, the misinformation surrounding it. “
But it is understandable that some Americans are struggling to follow public safety measures, she added, as many people have developed “pandemic fatigue.” This may make them less likely to stay home or stay informed about local transmission. When schools and businesses reopen, others may get the false impression that these environments are now completely safe.
“We see a roller coaster in the United States,” said IHME Director Dr. Christopher Murray in a statement. “It seems that people wear masks and socially distance themselves more often when infections increase, so after a while, when infections decrease, people let themselves be protected and stop taking these measures to protect themselves and others – which of course leads to more infections … And the potentially deadly cycle starts all over again. ”
Rising admissions can trigger more lockdowns
Although new cases are concentrated in the Midwest, experts warn that they can be quickly spilled out in other parts of the country.
At least 14 states have test-positive rates – the proportion of coronavirus tests that return positive – above 10%, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has said that the test positivity rate should ideally be below 3%. A rate of between 7% and 9% is “very disturbing”, said Dr. Howard Koh, professor at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, formerly of Business Insider.
The U.S. overall test positivity rate was 5.2% on Thursday, a slight increase from 4.6% on October 1st.
Coronavirus admissions are also increasing. As of Friday, they had risen by 21% compared to three weeks before. A dozen states – including Montana, North Dakota and Wisconsin – have seen record hospitalization in the past week, The Washington Post reported Thursday.
It is difficult to know whether this will translate into a proportional increase in deaths. Doctors have become better at treating patients since the start of the pandemic, and the death rate varies depending on the specific population groups being exposed to or infected, but there is still no cure for the virus.
If hospitals start to become overcrowded, public health experts say it could again create a need for tighter restrictions.
“There are many steps you can take between this and an entire quarantine,” Katz said. “You can stop eating in person, you can stop getting people to work out in the gym, you can stop getting your hot yoga class. There are all these different ways we can retire.”