As the number of daily new coronavirus cases hits its highest point in nearly two months, some health officials are warning that the long-feared second wave of the pandemic may have already begun.
Johns Hopkins University reported a total of 57,420 new covid-19 cases in the United States on Friday, CNN reports—the greatest number of new confirmed cases tallied in a single day since 64,601 new cases were counted on Aug. 14. Friday’s numbers also mark the third consecutive day with more than 50,000 new cases reported per day nationwide.
“We are all seeing increasing numbers of covid-19 patients who are coming into our ERs, who are getting really sick, requiring hospitalization and even intensive care,” said Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency room physician and Brown University associate professor, in an interview with CNN anchor Erica Hill on Saturday. “We are all deeply afraid that this is the beginning of that dreaded second wave.”
This could very well be the case in the Northeast. While numbers in the region aren’t nearly as alarming as they were in the spring, back when New York and other neighboring states were considered the epicenter of the pandemic in the U.S., The New York Times reports that new virus clusters have emerged in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and parts of New England. New Jersey’s rate of infection has also increased nearly twofold in recent weeks, and hospitalizations in the region are overall trending upward.
“We’re all kind of exhausted with it,” epidemiologist Danielle Ompad told the Times, noting that the increase in cases in the Northeast is likely due to some combination of cold weather forcing people indoors, schools reopening, and a growing weariness of social distancing and wearing masks after so many months. “We have to acknowledge that this is not easy.”
Still, the Times notes the northeast is reporting the lowest average number of deaths per day per region. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data collected over the past week, the hardest-hit states in terms of the sheer number of new cases are California, Texas, Florida, Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, Tennessee, and North Carolina.
There have been a total of 7,694,865 coronavirus cases reported in the U.S., per CDC data, and more than 213,000 people have died. The future is, as always, unknown, but health officials at the University of Washington School of Medicine predict that as many as 400,000 could die by Feb. 1. That number could easily rise to just over half a million people, they say, if the U.S. eases up on current social distancing measures.