As COVID-19 keeps surging, governors ponder next steps

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to surge in at least 30 states, with 6 states (Alabama, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Oregon, and Texas) hitting single-day case records yesterday, according to a database maintained by the New York Times.

The Times also reports that daily death tolls are trending upward. While still only a fraction of what was seen in late April, when more than 2,000 deaths were reported each day as the virus swept through New York and the surrounding tristate area, the 7-day average is now 608, up from 471 at the beginning of the month.

Arizona's COVID-19 death toll topped 2,000 yesterday, a new high for the state, Arizona Public Media reports. Arizona has recorded the highest rate of percent positive coronavirus tests in the country in recent days, with around 1 in 4 tests coming back positive.

According to the COVID-19 tracker maintained by Johns Hopkins University, the United States has 3,156,234 COVID-19 cases, including 133,746 deaths.

Governors at crossroads

The national daily case counts of between 50,000 and 63,000— double of what was seen in April—have led many governors to pause their reopening plans, issue new mandates on masks, or shut down certain business sectors again, including bars and restaurants.

Today Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order requiring masks in indoor public spaces and in crowded outdoor areas, and requiring businesses to turn away people who are not wearing masks.

"By wearing masks, we can save lives and protect our family, friends, and neighbors from the spread of COVID-19. And by wearing masks now, we can put our state in a stronger position so our kids can return to school safely in the fall," Whitmer tweeted.

In the Washington Post, Thomas Tsai, MD, a Harvard health policy researcher and surgeon, said his institute's national tracker, which assesses the speed of the outbreak in each state, shows that Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Georgia have cases mounting so fast that a lockdown should be mandatory.

"We're watching this unfold and we're frozen," he said.

In Florida, where Governor Ron DeSantis has said he will not reissue stay-at-home orders, nearly half of the state's intensive care units are 90% or more full, and more than 20% are completely full, according to USA Today. Miami-Dade County has a 33.5% positivity rate among recent COVID-19 tests.

In Nevada, Governor Steve Sisolak announced yesterday he was closing bars in some counties seeing a spike.

"We know that COVID can easily spread when people are congregating for long periods of time, like inside a bar," Sisolak said.

Today bars and restaurants in Washoe and Clark counties, which include Reno and Las Vegas, must return to the state's phase one restrictions.

CDC data show mortality highest in very old

Today in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) researchers present new data on who in the country is most likely to die from COVID-19 infections.

While old age increases the risk, racial disparities are also at play among victims from the virus who are under the age of 65, the CDC experts demonstrated.

The study was based on 83,000 US COVID-19 deaths from Jan 1 through May 18. Overall, 34.9% of Hispanic and 29.5% of nonwhite people who died were aged 65 years or younger, compared with 13.2% of white, non-Hispanic decedents.

"Further study is needed to understand the reasons for these differences. It is possible that rates of SARS-CoV-2 transmission are higher among Hispanic and nonwhite persons aged <65 years than among white persons; one potential contributing factor is higher percentages of Hispanic and nonwhite persons engaged in occupations (e.g., service industry) or essential activities that preclude physical distancing," the authors concluded.

Face mask developments

  • Starbucks announced yesterday it will require face masks at all US locations, beginning Jul 15.
  • President Donald Trump said he will don a mask when visiting wounded soldiers at Walter Reed hospital this weekend. This would be the first time the president appears in public with a face covering.

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