Is the coronavirus pandemic getting worse in the US?

Is the pandemic getting worse in the US
There are numbers which suggest coronavirus pandemic in the US is increasing. Source: AP
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Daily US Times: For the last couple of weeks, news headlines in the US have been dominated by anti-racism protests, but coronavirus pandemic is now back in the headlines.

In recent days, several states have seen a record number of cases, leading to fears that the country is experiencing a second wave of infections.

But Vice-President Mike Pence said those fears were “overblown” and accused the media of using “grim predictions” to scare the American citizen.

So what is going on in the US?

The confirmed cases of coronavirus infections is going up. The US has the highest number of confirmed infections in the world with more than two million coronavirus cases – about a quarter of the global total.

The coronavirus pandemic got really bad in late March but by May, cases were declining and most states had begun to ease lockdown restrictions put into place to contain the spread of the virus.

The number of new cases rarely fell below 20,000 though, because as some states managed to bring their outbreaks under control, while others were only just beginning to see flare-ups.

For this reason, Anthony Fauci, the top US health official for infectious diseases, sees the current situation as a continuation of the initial outbreaks.

Americans may need to stop attending large gatherings. Source: Reuters

Last week, he told reporters that people keep talking about a second wave, but “we’re still in a first wave.”

Spikes in cases in those new hotspots mean the country’s overall seven-day average has now risen for several days in a row for the first time since cases peaked in early April.

Big regional differences

The North East of the US has been by far the worst-hit region, with about a quarter of all US cases and more than a third of all US deaths occurring in the states of New Jersey and New York and. But the region has brought its outbreaks under control in recent weeks.

On the other hand, the South and West of the country have seen a big rise in the number of infections, according to data compiled by the COVID Tracking Project.

There’s no debate over whether cases are going up again, but there is over why.

President Donald Trump blamed increased testing for the higher number of infection. He told Wall Street Journal that he thinks “testing is overrated” because “in many ways, it makes us look bad.”

The US has conducted more coronavirus tests than any other country. It did about 25 million tests so far – so that does go some way to explaining why it has the highest number of cases in the world, although international comparisons are difficult to make for a number of reasons.

But there’s plenty of evidence to suggest the recent rise in infections is down to more than just a higher number of people being tested.

Twice last week, Arizona saw more new cases on its own than the entire nine-state North East region and that’s not just down to increased testing.

This is clear when you look at the rate of coronavirus tests that are coming back positive.

Paramedics taking a patient into an emergency centre at Maimonides Medical Center in the Brooklyn. Source: Reuters

If lots of people are being tested and the spread of the virus has been reduced, then the positive cases would go down too. If the virus is still being spread widely, it goes up.

At the moment the positive case rate is just below 5% nationally, which is the level the World Health Organization recommends countries be at or below for 14 days before they ease restrictions on movement. The US was once the center of global coronavirus pandemic.

The positive news in the US at the moment is daily deaths continue to fall amid all of the fears about new hotspots.

The death toll peaked back in May when coronavirus outbreaks in the Northeast were at their most intense, with New York state – which was the worst-hit in the country- alone registering around 1,000 a day. This week, that figure is about 40 a day.

If we do see the number of deaths edging up, there will likely be some pressure on governors to reintroduce some restrictions. But Dr Fauci doesn’t think that will happen.

He said last week: “I don’t think we’re going to be talking about going back to lockdown.”

“I think we’re going to be talking about trying to better control those areas of the country that seem to be having a surge of cases.”

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