Almost nine months into the coronavirus pandemic, the crisis shows no signs of abating, even in states that were once not considered Covid-19 hotspots.
Utah, where the vice presidential candidates will debate Wednesday, is averaging more than 1,000 new cases each day for the past week. That’s the highest it’s been since the first cases in the US were reported in late January.
Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall on Tuesday requested the city reimpose tougher restrictions like smaller limits on social gatherings.
“Our data’s continuing upward trend is alarming and swift action is necessary. The shift to orange should be a signal to Salt Lake City residents of the gravity of this situation,” Mayor Mendenhall said.
The head of the Oregon Health Authority on Tuesday said the state is seeing a significant spike in new coronavirus cases since autumn began.
“We have reversed the progress we made in the late summer, and our most recent modeling shows the virus is spreading more rapidly,” Pat Allen told reporters.
State officials in Alaska are seeing record numbers of cases and its highest ever test positivity rate (4.19%).
In Montana, health officials reported more than 500 new cases for the first time. According to The Covid Tracking Project, the state on Monday reported 201 new hospitalizations, a record.
Overall cases across the nation are on the rise. More than 50,000 daily cases were reported on Friday and Saturday. The last time the US saw more than 50,000 cases back to back was mid-August.
Just four states – Hawaii, Kansas, Missouri and South Carolina – are reporting a decline in coronavirus cases over the past week, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Fauci: US still lagging in Covid-19 testing
Months into the pandemic and ahead of what experts say could be a difficult winter season, the US remains behind when it comes to Covid-19 testing, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci said.
“We’re better off now than we were a couple of months ago, that’s for sure,” Fauci told CNN’s Chris Cuomo Monday night. But the country is still not where it needs to be, he said.
In the battle against the virus, experts have continually stressed how testing is critical. When done right, it can help health officials identify infections quickly and place those individuals in isolation before more people become infected. It can also give local leaders an idea of the level of infection within a community.
“We need to flood the system with testing,” Fauci said.
The US has conducted more than 107 million tests since the pandemic began.
More than 210,000 have died and there have been more than 7.4 million recorded infections – but the number of true infections is likely far greater than that, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said. And that’s likely because of the lack of testing in the first months of the pandemic, experts say.
What happens when measures are relaxed
A new study that analyzed Covid-19 data from all 50 states and DC found lockdowns helped slow transmission of Covid-19, but loosened restrictions let the virus spread again.
“Essentially the moment those restrictions were released, those trends reversed,” Dr. Mark Siedner, an investigator in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital, who led the research team, said in a statement.
Experts have said that a second lockdown isn’t necessary to get the virus under control: strong safety measures like universal face masks, social distancing and hand washing could be nearly just as impactful.
Fauci warned last month that communities across the country should double down on those measures as a potentially challenging season approaches.
But those efforts remain a point of contention: Many Americans have protested the use of masks and despite repeated warnings from state leaders, in some parts of the country large gatherings have continued.
Vaccine could be deemed safe next month
It’s likely US health officials will know whether a Covid-19 vaccine is safe and effective as early as next month, Fauci said Monday.
“I think comfortably around November or December, we’ll know whether or not the vaccine is safe and effective,” he said.
There are currently 10 Covid-19 vaccine candidates in late-stage, large clinical trials around the world, according to the World Health Organization. Several of those are in the US and at least two have been in Phase 3 trials since late July.
Once a vaccine is deemed safe and effective, it’s likely companies will already have doses to begin distributing, Fauci said.
“There will be vaccines available, likely, for some people, limited amount, by the end of this calendar year, the beginning of 2021,” Fauci predicted.
Experts including Fauci say health care workers and people with underlying health conditions will likely take priority for vaccinations.
CNN’s Amanda Watts, Shelby Lin Erdman and Tina Burnside contributed to this report.