On Thursday, the United States reported over 77,000 new cases of covid-19, according to a tally maintained by NBC News — a record high. The rising numbers in new cases, hospitalisations, and deaths, both in the U.S. and throughout the world, signal the resurgence of a viral pandemic that has already claimed over 220,000 American lives and 1.1 million lives globally.
Per NBC News, the U.S. saw a reported 77,640 new cases Thursday, eclipsing the previous high mark of 75,723 in late July, as well as 921 related deaths.
Different trackers use slightly different periods of time as their cutoff for the day and may not rely on the same sources of data, so these numbers aren’t necessarily definitive. But all of the tracking indicates a clear upturn in the shape of the pandemic. The COVID Tracking Project, for instance, reported around 73,000 new cases and 1,038 deaths Thursday — the first time their death toll has reached over 1,000 since late September.
Many countries are experiencing their own record surges. France, Germany, and the Czech Republic are among the several that have recently reported a new record in daily cases. Even some countries that have largely managed the coronavirus effectively up to now are starting to slip, such as Malaysia and Myanmar. According to data from the World Health Organisation, Wednesday saw a new record high in reported cases worldwide, with over 443,000.
Much of the world is now experiencing its second wave of the pandemic, following a lengthy period of low incidence during the northern hemisphere summer. The U.S., however, has only briefly reported significant lulls in new cases since March, making this most recent surge more akin to a third peak during a single first wave. Only a few regions of the country have avoided a troubling increase in new cases, though some previously hard-hit areas are still far off their previous peaks, such as New York. Many of these new cases have been concentrated in rural areas of the Midwest.
The somewhat good news: Compared to the start of the pandemic, doctors and hospitals now have some treatments available for severe cases of covid-19, as well as standardised protocols that appear to be lessening the odds of needing invasive and risky interventions like ventilators. These improvements, some recent research has suggested, may be significantly driving down the mortality rate of covid-19. But other experts have argued that this drop in the fatality rate is less pronounced than it seems, and mostly due to other factors like the average age of patients lowering and hospitals not being as overwhelmed as they were during their respective peaks. Yesterday, the FDA approved the first specific treatment for covid-19, the anti-viral remdesivir, but there is no solid evidence that the drug can prevent deaths and only weak evidence that it can shorten the length of symptoms.
Unfortunately, these favourable circumstances seem to be in danger of fading away. Hard-hit areas are once again reporting shortages of hospital and intensive care unit beds as well as concerns about their supply of respirators and other essential medical equipment. And outbreaks involving predominantly older people are also on the rise.
Experts have warned for months that the weather conditions of the Northern Hemisphere autumn and winter would be especially dangerous for the spread of the viral illness in the U.S. The fact that we’re already seeing record numbers so early into the season could be a grim foreshadowing on how much worse things could get. And unlike earlier in the year, the White House no longer seems to be interested in pretending to root for anyone but the virus.