The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States passed the two-million mark Wednesday, as cases continue to rise across the country amid patchwork reopening measures and widespread protests against racism and police brutality.
Thousands of new laboratory tests have returned positive daily in several states, with the pandemic appearing to shift from large urban centres like New York City and Chicago toward smaller, rural areas. States that have loosened restrictions have also seen resurgences in cases.
The total case count in the country now, as of Wednesday evening, sits at 2,000,464. The country’s death toll has also continued to climb steadily, surpassing 112,900 people, according to public health data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
The one million most recent cases were added over the course of over a month after the U.S. surpassed a million confirmed cases on April 28. On average, the country has reported more than 20,000 cases a day since then.
On Tuesday, 21 U.S. states reported weekly increases in new cases of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Arizona, Utah and New Mexico all posted rises of 40 per cent or higher for the week that ended Sunday, compared with the prior seven days, according to a Reuters analysis.
The day before, 14 states, along with Puerto Rico, recorded their highest-ever seven-day average of new cases since the start of the pandemic, according to data tracked by the Washington Post. Those states include Arizona, California, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi and Utah — all of which and more have loosened their restrictions faster than others.
In one example from the analysis, the Bear River Health District in northern Utah averaged 78 new cases a day over a week. Most of the cases are due to an outbreak at a meat processing plant in the town of Hyrum, which has a population of just over 7,600.
Arizona was among the first states to reopen in mid-May, and its cases have increased 115 per cent since then, leading a former state health chief to warn that a new stay-at-home order or field hospitals may be needed. California has put half its population on a watch list comprised of counties that have seen upticks.
Texas, which is also among those 14 states, has continually reported record-high hospitalizations due to the disease. On Tuesday, health officials reported more than 2,000 patients were in hospital.
Johns Hopkins University on Monday found 22 states, including Michigan and Arizona, had seen at least small daily upticks in new cases. Virginia, Rhode Island and Nebraska showed the greatest decreases, the school’s data showed.
The number of new infections around the U.S. rose three per cent in the first week of June — the first increase after five weeks of declines, according to an analysis of data from the COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer-run organization.
Yet even those rises and declines likely don’t tell the true story of the pandemic. The number of infections and deaths related to COVID-19, as is the case around the world, is believed to be far higher than official data indicates thanks to shortages in testing.
Health officials have continued to stress the importance of widespread testing and contact tracing to ensure any resurgence of the virus is caught early, while allowing the economy to reopen.
But the Trump administration has yet to produce a plan that has satisfied both parties in Congress, leaving it up to states to ramp up testing.
The White House’s coronavirus task force still meets and collects data but has shifted its focus towards reopening the economy on U.S. President Donald Trump’s orders. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, told CNN last week that he had not spoken to Trump in two weeks.
The recent upheaval and anti-racism demonstrations sparked by the death of George Floyd while in police custody have also caused health officials alarm, as tens of thousands of protesters defy public gathering restrictions. Those protesters should get tested as soon as possible, officials warn, although some testing sites have been destroyed by rioters.
Researchers from the widely cited Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington now estimate that 145,728 people could die of COVID-19 in the U.S. by August. In a worst-case scenario, that number could reach as high as 166,000.
Worldwide, the coronavirus has infected over 7.2 million people and killed over 410,000, according to Johns Hopkins.
— With files from Reuters and the Associated Press