Just after 1,000 people died in a single day, the country is about to reach 4 million Covid-19 cases.
To put that in perspective, the first reported case came on January 21. After 99 days, 1 million Americans became infected.
It took just 43 days after that to reach 2 million cases.
And 28 days later, on July 8, the US reached 3 million cases. The 4 millionth case could come just two weeks after that.
As of Wednesday morning, more than 3.9 million people had been infected across the US, and more than 142,000 have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Some states are reporting record-breaking numbers of new cases. More governors are requiring masks, and dozens of hospitals are out of ICU beds.
At least 27 states have either halted or rolled back their reopenings to try to get a grip on the virus.
For the first time in three months, President Donald Trump gave a public Covid-19 update from the White House briefing room Tuesday and said his administration is “developing a strategy.”
He said the pandemic will likely “get worse before it gets better,” echoing earlier predictions made by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Last week, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said the fall and winter will likely be “one of the most difficult times that we’ve experienced in American public health.”
Some good news on the vaccine front
Several vaccine trials are progressing well, and researchers say a vaccine might be publicly available by early 2021.
And any Covid-19 vaccine that’s sponsored by the US government will be free or affordable for the American public, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told CNBC on Wednesday.
“For any vaccine that we have bought — so for instance the Pfizer vaccine — those hundred million doses would actually be acquired by the US government, then given for free to Americans,” Azar said.
He said the same would apply with the AstraZeneca and the Novovax vaccines.
“We will ensure that any vaccine that we’re involved in sponsoring is either free to the American people or is affordable,” Azar said.
And while some anti-mask protesters refuse to wear a piece of cloth to help save American lives, enormous signs of altruism have emerged.
More than 100,000 people have volunteered to participate in Covid-19 vaccine clinical trials, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
“You’re talking about tens and tens of thousands of people that will be needed for these multiple vaccine trials,” Fauci said during a webinar Wednesday with the TB Alliance.
“I think we’ll be fine with regards to getting enough people.”
Where cases are surging
Some politicians, including the President, have insisted that much of the soaring case numbers are a reflection of increased testing.
But the surge is new cases has greatly outpaced the increase in testing, with troubling rates of transmission and test positivity in many states.
A CNN analysis of testing data from the Covid Tracking Project reveals that the positive test rate — or the the average number of positive test results out of 1,000 tests performed — has increased significantly in many of the current hotspots, including Florida, Arizona, Texas and Georgia.
Florida saw an average rate of 35 positive results per 1,000 tests during the month of May. But in June, that number nearly tripled to 105. So far in July, the average rate of test positivity has been 187 out of 1,000.
But Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said the state is on the “right course” in the fight against the virus.
“I think we will continue to see improvements,” the governor said Tuesday. “We just have to, particularly Floridians, have to continue doing the basic things.”
Over the weekend, nearly 50 Florida hospitals said they were out of ICU beds. Statewide, the ICU bed availability had dwindled to 15.98% on Tuesday, down from about 18.1% on Monday.
And new data from the CDC also show infections could be more than 10 times higher than the number of reported cases in some parts of the US.
Young people drive spread of cases in Los Angeles
California, the first state to shut down months ago, seemed to get Covid-19 under control — only to suffer a massive resurgence, now surpassing New York with the most coronavirus cases in the nation.
This month, the governor shut down bars and indoor restaurant services again due to a massive influx of cases after reopening.
In Los Angeles, the number of daily hospitalizations hit a new high for the fourth time in a week Monday.
On Tuesday, Los Angeles County officials said young people were driving the spread of the virus, with 57% of new cases reported in people under 41 years old.
“The tragedy of what we are witnessing is that many of our younger residents are interacting with each other and not adhering to the recommended prevention measures,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the county public health director.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told CNN earlier this week he was on the “brink” of issuing another stay-at-home order for the city, urging residents to avoid gatherings.
Major testing delays make tracing almost useless
With the high transmission levels of the virus, traditional contact tracing has now become “impractical and difficult to do,” California Health Secretary Mark Ghaly said.
The state is working to refine strategies and continue to work with counties to build up their “tracing army,” but Ghaly warns that “even a very robust contact tracing program will have a hard time reaching out to every single case.”
Contact tracing is now harder all over the nation while testing results take days, Fauci said.
Quest Diagnostics, a leading commercial testing lab, said in a news release Monday that for some patients, testing results can take up to two weeks.
“The time frame from when you get a test to the time you get the results back is sometimes measured in a few days,” Fauci said Tuesday.
“If that’s the case, it kind of negates the purpose of the contract tracing because if you don’t know if that person gets the results back at a period of time that’s reasonable, 24 hours, 48 hours at the most … that kind of really mitigates against getting a good tracing and a good isolation.”
What’s at stake
More than 150,000 Americans will die from the virus by August 8, according to an ensemble forecast published by the CDC.
The previous forecast, published July 9, projected roughly 147,000 Covid-19 deaths by August 1.
But if 95% of Americans wore face masks in public, it could prevent more than 45,000 deaths by November 1, according to the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
While at least 39 states have some time of mask requirement now in place, some officials have not mandated masks.
In Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp sued Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms last week over her decision to mandate masks in the city.
Citing Georgia’s situation, Sen. Elizabeth Warren appealed to the CDC director this week to request that the agency help implement and expand mask mandates.
Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague made masks a requirement in public places and in outdoor places when social distancing isn’t possible — defying the state’s governor who says cities have no authority to put mask mandates in place.
“The scientific data and evidence is clear. Face coverings and masks are a safe, effective way to get case numbers down,” the mayor said.
Ultimately, the course of this pandemic will also help steer the future of education.
Trump has said he’s pressuring governors to reopen schools. But many parents and educators have protested a return to class because while children may not get as sick from the virus, they can still be vectors of the virus.
Some school districts across the country have announced they’ll only hold virtual classes for at least the first several weeks of the upcoming semester.
And the concern isn’t just about the kids and their families. About one in four teachers are at risk of serious illness if they contract Covid-19, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation.