The US coronavirus surge is the ‘grimmest in 8 weeks’ — and hospitals could become ‘overwhelmed: report

The US coronavirus surge is the ‘grimmest in 8 weeks’ — and hospitals could become ‘overwhelmed: report
Lt. Cmdr. Michael Heimes, assigned to Expeditionary Medical Facility-M, checks on a patient connected to a ventilator during an ICU night shift at Baton Rouge General Mid City campus, April 28, 2020. The 100 EMF-M personnel, part of the Department of Defense COVID-19 response, work to ease the strain of the significant patient care surge as part of the BRG Mid City family. U.S. Northern Command, through U.S. Army North, is providing military support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help communities in need. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Daniel R. Betancourt Jr./Released)200428-M-WU117-1661
News & Politics

Back in March and April, President Donald Trump predicted that coronavirus would disappear from the United States when hot weather returned. But that prediction has not panned out: temperatures above 90F have been felt everywhere from Pennsylvania to New Mexico, and coronavirus is hardly going away. In fact, Sam Baker and Andrew Witherspoon of Axios are reporting that COVID-19 “is getting dramatically worse in almost every corner of the U.S.”

“The U.S. today is getting closer to the worst-case scenario envisioned in the spring: a nationwide crisis, made worse by a vacuum of political leadership, threatening to overwhelm hospitals and spread out of control,” Baker and Witherspoon warn in an article published on June 25. “Nationwide, cases are up 30% compared to the beginning of this month, and dramatically worsening outbreaks in several states are beginning to strain hospital capacity — the same concern that prompted the nationwide lockdown in the first place.”

For eight weeks, Baker and Witherspoon note, Axios has been “tracking the change in new cases in every state” in the U.S. — and a recent map showing coronavirus infections, state by state, is the “grimmest” in that eight-week period.

“Over half the country — 26 states — have seen their coronavirus caseloads increase over the past week,” Baker and Witherspoon observe. “New cases are up 77% in Arizona, 75% in Michigan, 70% in Texas and 66% in Florida. California, which has seen steady increases for weeks, recorded a 47% jump in new infections over the past week.”

A talking point repeated over and over by Trump and his sycophants at Fox News is that because more testing is taking place, more infections are being reported. But Baker and Witherspoon explain why that talking point is misleading.

According to the Axios reporters, “Increased testing does not explain away these numbers. Other data points make clear that we’re seeing a worsening outbreak, not simply getting better data. Seven states, including Arizona, have set records for the number of people hospitalized with coronavirus, and the percentage of all tests that come back positive is also increasing.”

The “percentage” part is important. When critics of Trump’s response to coronavirus point out that Germany, just to give one example, hasn’t had nearly as many COVID-19 deaths as the U.S., Trump’s defenders will respond: that’s because the U.S. has four times the population of Germany — so, of course, there are going to be more deaths in the U.S. But data needs to be analyzed on a per capita basis. And if one compares every 100,000 residents of Germany to every 100,000 residents of the U.S., it is painfully obvious that per capita, a lot more Americans are dying from coronavirus. According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Germany’s COVID-19 death count was 8936 as of early Thursday morning, June 25 — in the U.S., it was 122,020. The U.S. has four times the population of Germany but way more than four times the number of deaths from COVID-19.

Baker and Witherspoon note that as part of its coronavirus tracking system, Axios “uses a rolling seven-day average to minimize the effects of any abnormalities in how and when new cases are reported.”

“The whole point of the national lockdown was to buy time to improve testing and give infection levels a chance to level off without overwhelming hospitals,” Baker and Witherspoon write. “That worked in New York, but as other parts of the country begin to see their outbreaks intensify later, the same risks are back at the forefront.”

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