While eyes were on the presidential election, the United States reached a devastating milestone in the COVID-19 pandemic: on November 5th, there were 121,504 reported cases of the disease, according to The New York Times. That marked two straight days with over 100,000 reported cases. This isn’t a peak; it’s another step on a steady climb. That daily case number will likely continue to grow.
“We are in big trouble,” wrote global health experts Abraar Karan and Ranu Dhillon on WBUR.
In the spring, the center of the pandemic in the US was in the Northeast. Over the summer, Southern states were hit the hardest. Now, the virus is everywhere — there’s no particular hotspot, and things are bleak across the country. Cases are climbing in nearly every state, and hospitalizations are following closely behind. Hospitals in states like Iowa are already overwhelmed. Although doctors have gotten better at treating COVID-19 and the death rate has dropped off slightly, it’s still a deadly disease — and it’s deadlier in at-capacity hospitals where doctors are stretched thin.
It’s concerning to see these numbers as we approach Thanksgiving and the holiday season, when people tend to travel and gather in large groups. The numbers are even more alarming to public health experts who worry that people won’t be able to socialize outdoors as easily when temperatures start to drop in many areas so they’ll head indoors where the virus thrives.
Even though this record-setting climb is happening across the country, it’s unlikely we’ll see any kind of new national strategy to combat the virus’s spread. President Donald Trump, who has spent the course of the pandemic minimizing the impact of the coronavirus, spreading misinformation, and discouraging mask-wearing, will be president for at least two more months.
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We have the same public health tools at our disposal that we’ve had for months — distancing, masks, ventilation, testing, contact tracing — but in order to put out the current fire, they all have to be deployed aggressively, with more resources and better communication than they are right now.
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said back in June that COVID-19 cases in the US could eventually top 100,000 a day. “It could get very bad,” he said in a Senate hearing at the time. Now, that prediction has come true — and the worst is likely yet to come.