The US spent another week headed in the wrong direction, with daily new COVID-19 cases reaching nearly 60,000 on Thursday, the sixth record-setting total in the past ten days.
The spike continued to be most pronounced in states that reopened early, with Texas, South Carolina, Arizona, and Florida hit particularly hard. More worryingly, several states saw daily deaths from COVID rise, with Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, South Dakota and Tennessee hitting one-day death records.
Like the light from some malign star, death numbers are a lagging indicator—a reflection of new case totals from weeks earlier—leading health experts to warn of dark days ahead for the rest of the summer. In his customary understated manner, top White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said this week, “I don’t think you could say we’re doing great. I mean, we’re just not.”
Responding to concerns about the availability of hospital capacity, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott expanded a ban on elective surgeries to more than 100 counties across the state, and HCA Healthcare delayed inpatient surgeries at more than a dozen of its hospitals in Florida, as did other health systems there.
School reopening emerged as a political flashpoint this week, with President Trump hosting a summit meeting on “Safely Reopening America’s Schools” on Tuesday at the White House. The President criticized reopening guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as being “very tough & expensive”, but on Thursday CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield told CNN that the guidelines, first published in May, would not be revised.
With schools and colleges set to restart in many places next month, the influential American Academy of Pediatrics modified its earlier support for reopening schools, pushing back on the administration’s threatened funding cuts for school districts that do not reopen on time, with in-person classes.
The debate over how to handle school reopening underscores how much time was lost between March and May, when a national reopening plan should have been developed. As the virus surges, with students and teachers set to return in just a few short weeks, and further economic recovery hinging on parents’ ability to send their kids safely to school, the window is rapidly closing on our ability to navigate this critical transition.
US coronavirus update: 3.2M cases; 135K deaths; 38.0M tests conducted.