The United States has yet again smashed another coronavirus record with more than nine million Americans now catching the potentially deadly disease.
The nation’s coronavirus infection rate has hit an all-time high with 42 states seeing record daily increases.
America’s jump from eight to nine million only took a fortnight, according to data from the Centre for Disease Control.
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The worrying rise, with winter just around the corner for the US, has prompted calls for a nationwide mask mandate to replace the current patchwork of state regulations.
However US President Donald Trump, who will face off against former vice president Joe Biden in next week’s election, remains unconvinced.
To date, 33 of America’s 50 states, as well as the capital Washington D.C. and the island of Puerto Rico, have imposed mask mandates.
In the other 17, it has been left to local jurisdictions, leaving cities, towns and counties to decide for themselves.
The lack of a national mask mandate has made things difficult for certain areas of the US.
For example, Kansas’ governor imposed a mask order in July but individual counties could opt-out.
The result was that only 20 of 105 counties actually made masks mandatory – and in those areas, the infection rate fell by 50 per cent compared to counties where there weren’t such orders, according to researchers at the University of Kansas.
A study published in the medical journal Health Affairs found that mask mandates in the US spring alone prevented between 230,000 and 400,000 cases by May 22.
And an epidemiological model from the University of Washington published recently in Nature even estimated that 130,000 deaths could be avoided by the end of February if 95 per cent of the population wore a mask in the presence of other people.
Mr Trump has repeatedly stressed the US is “rounding the turn” on the pandemic, but figures do not bear that out: more than 227,000 Americans have died and daily case averages have risen.
“All they talk about is Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid,” Mr Trump said at his Omaha rally earlier this week. “It’s incredible. Excuse me. I’m here! Right?”
But his own chief infectious disease specialist, Anthony Fauci, offered a warning earlier.
Even if a COVID-19 vaccination comes out this year, “it will be easily by the end of 2021, and perhaps even into the next year, before we start having some semblances of normality,” he told a University of Melbourne panel.
Based on current projections from vaccine frontrunners Moderna Inc and Pfizer Inc, Americans will likely know “sometime in December whether or not we have a safe and effective vaccine,” Mr Fauci said yesterday in a live chat on Twitter and Facebook.
“The first interim look (at trial results) should be, we hope, within the next few weeks,” he said.
Both companies started the final stage of clinical testing in late July with tens of thousands of people taking part in each trial.
Moderna earlier on Thursday said it was on track to deliver interim data from its large, late-stage trial next month.
Even with an effective vaccine to protect against the virus, Mr Fauci said it will take time to get back to something approaching normal as vaccine-induced immunity builds both nationally and globally.
A recent forecast published by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention projects there will be 243,000 to 256,000 coronavirus deaths in America by November 21.
At least 228,143 people have died from the coronavirus this year, representing about 8 per cent of all deaths in the country, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
This compares to cancer and heart disease, which made up about 20 per cent each. Influenza and pneumonia only accounted for about 2 per cent of deaths, which is about the same as last year. The coronavirus has been more deadly than stroke, Alzheimer’s and diabetes, which have all killed less than 121,000 people each this year.
– With wires