Florida, which over the summer became the country’s hotspot, is “ripe for another large outbreak,” an infectious disease expert told CNN.
“What they’ve done is opened up everything as if nothing had ever happened there and you and I could be talking probably in eight to 10 weeks, and I will likely bet that Florida will be a house on fire,” Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told CNN Friday.
White House Coronavirus Task Force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx also cautioned Friday of “early suggestions” of alarming trends in the Northeast, urging residents to take action and help prevent the spread before the virus takes off again.
“The actions this time have to happen at the personal level, in our private homes, rather than just the public spaces,” she said.
In New Jersey, officials are monitoring several areas of concern after the governor said the state was beginning to see “sobering” numbers. And in New York, several cluster areas prompted Gov. Andrew Cuomo to issue strict restrictions in areas with large Orthodox Jewish communities, sparking protests and criticism from some local leaders.
As of October 8, the moving average of new cases per one million people in the Northeast increased by 91% since September 8, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. And across the US, 28 states — scattered mostly across the Midwest and Northeast — are reporting more new cases than the previous week, according to Johns Hopkins.
Only two states — Maine and Nebraska — are reporting a decline.
Alarming trends all over the country
Worrying trends are being recorded across the US. At least 22 states reported more than 1,000 new cases on Thursday. And the country’s daily case count average — now more than 46,000 — has surged by 12% since the previous week.
Hospitalizations are also on the rise. Especially worrisome are numbers coming out of Wisconsin, experts say, which in recent days has reported its highest daily case count, hospitalization number and death toll. After issuing an emergency order limiting public gatherings, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers warned the state was in a “dire place” and announced a field hospital would be opening next week to help respond to the surge in patients.
“We’re in a crisis right now and need to immediately change our behavior to save lives,” he told residents earlier this week.
But other states aren’t trailing far behind — with Utah’s Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox saying this week hospitalization rates were “surging” and “beginning to place a strain on our healthcare system.”Health officials have warned things could get worse as winter approaches and the Covid-19 pandemic is stacked against flu season. Projections from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation show more than 2,900 Americans dying every day by January. And the latest US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ensemble forecast shows the US death toll could climb to 233,000 by the end of the month. More than 213,000 Americans have died from the virus since the start of the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins.
CDC: Young adults may be the sparks in hotspots
Meanwhile, CDC researchers say young adults may be the sparks that set off new hotspots of Covid-19 spread.
The researchers found the percentage of positive Covid-19 test results start going up among people under the age of 25 about a month before a county is designated as a hotspot.
Percent positivity in younger persons was followed by increasing positivity among older age groups, the researchers wrote.
Other experts have previously said that could be the case. Over the summer, Birx said parts of the country were seeing a “household” spread: younger people were contracting the virus and unknowingly (as many often can have mild or no symptoms) brought it back home to their parents, who then passed the virus on to other members of the family and community.
With holidays like Thanksgiving on the horizon, Birx urged residents on Friday not to let their guard down and said it was important for college students returning home to remain diligent about taking health precautions and encouraging their communities to do the same.
CNN’s Andrea Kane, Lauren Mascarenhas and Amanda Watts contributed to this report.