Florida reported 4049 new cases on Saturday, and about 3500 more on Sunday, bringing the state’s total to about 97,000 cases. The number of COVID-19 deaths eclipsed 3160 with the addition of 17 more announced by health officials on Sunday.
Despite rising cases in recent days, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has not signalled the possibility of any retreat from reopening the state after three months of closures.
Arizona has now passed the 50,000 mark in confirmed COVID-19 cases after reporting 2952 new ones on Sunday.
A woman is tested for coronavirus in Salt Lake City, Utah.Credit:AP
It comes after the state reported record new cases number 3109 on Saturday, 3246 on Friday and 2519 on Thursday. Health officials have attributed the increases to wider testing and to community spread of the virus.
In The Wall Street Journal last week, Vice President Mike Pence wrote in a piece headlined “There isn’t a coronavirus ‘second wave'” that the nation is winning the fight against the virus.
Many public health experts, however, suggest it’s no time to celebrate. About 120,000 Americans have died from the new virus, and there have been more than 2.2 million confirmed cases. The real numbers are believed to be higher.
But there is at least one point of agreement – scientists generally agree the nation is still in its first wave of coronavirus infections, albeit one that’s dipping in some parts of the country while rising in others.
“It’s more of a plateau, or a mesa,” not the trough after a wave, said Caitlin Rivers, a disease researcher at Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Health Security.
Dr Michael Osterholm, a prominent epidemiologist in US, warned on Sunday that the country was likely to experience one long wave.
“I’m actually of the mind right now: I think this is more like a forest fire,” Osterholm told NBC’s Meet the Press program.
“I don’t think this is going to slow down. I’m not sure the influenza analogy applies anymore. I think that wherever there’s wood to burn, this fire is going to burn it.”
He added: “I don’t think we’re going to see one, two and three waves – I think we’re just going to see one very very difficult forest fire of cases.”
There was an initial infection peak in April as cases exploded in New York City. After schools and businesses were closed across the country, the rate of new cases dropped somewhat.
“This virus is spreading around the United States and hitting different places with different intensity at different times,” said Dr Richard Besser, chief executive of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation who was acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention when a pandemic flu hit the US in 2009.
Dr Arnold Monto, a University of Michigan flu expert, echoed that sentiment.
“What I would call this is continued transmission with flare-ups,” he said.
Flu seasons sometimes feature a second wave of infections. But in those cases, the second wave is a distinct new surge in cases from a strain of flu that is different than the strain that caused earlier illnesses.
That’s not the case in the coronavirus epidemic.
Monto doesn’t think “second wave” really describes what’s happening now, calling it “totally semantics”.
“Second waves are basically in the eye of the beholder,” he said.
But Besser said semantics matter, because saying a first wave has passed may give people a false sense that the worst is over.
Some worry a large wave of coronavirus might occur this autumn or winter – after schools reopen, the weather turns colder and less humid, and people huddle inside more. That would follow seasonal patterns seen with flu and other respiratory viruses. And such a fall wave could be very bad, given that there’s no vaccine or experts think most Americans haven’t had the virus.
But the coronavirus so far has been spreading more episodically and sporadically than flu, and it may not follow the same playbook.
“It’s very difficult to make a prediction,” Rivers said. “We don’t know the degree to which this virus is seasonal, if at all.”
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AP, with Marissa Calligeros
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