COVID-19 Cases are on the Rise Nationwide
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The European Union formalized its plans for reopening this week. Starting on July 1st, residents of 15 different countries will be permitted to travel into any EU nation. This plan was carefully designed to “balance health concerns with politics, diplomacy, and the desperate need for tourism revenue.”
Russians, Brazilians, and Americans will be denied entry. This news comes as COVID-19 infection rates surge across the United States. According to data from The New York Times, the nation’s number of cases has gone up 80% since mid-June. States including Texas, Florida, and Utah have recently reported their highest single-day infection totals yet. Dr. Anthony Fauci has warned that the nation could soon see 100,000 new cases every day.
A Change of Plans
For Americans hoping to enjoy summer festivities, the new surge could not have come at a worse time. More than a dozen states have announced that they will pause or even walk back their reopening processes. This includes some states that have generally managed to reduce their infection rates. New Jersey, for example, had planned to reintroduce indoor dining on Thursday, July 2nd. This phase in the state’s grand reopening is now postponed indefinitely. New York City, long the global epicenter of the virus, has also announced that it will not reopen for indoor dining this week.
Experts in some states blame hasty reopening and poor social distancing throughout the last month and a half. Some have singled out Memorial Day revelers in particular. In Texas, Austin Public Health’s interim director pointed to an “increase in risk-taking behavior” during and following the holiday weekend. Politicians and state health officials are undoubtedly hopeful that they can discourage large, unsafe gatherings on Independence Day.
A few weeks ago, commentators and scientists wondered whether large protests against police brutality and systemic racism would produce a spike in cases. So far, the evidence suggests that they have not. A study from the National Bureau of Economic Research found no correlation between cities that have seen large protests and cities that have seen COVID-19 surges.
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President Trump’s handling of the virus has consistently provided fodder for his opponents. This shows no signs of stopping. Recent surges have (once again) revealed the degree to which the virus has become a political issue. At a rally in Tulsa, Trump suggested that increased testing was behind rising infection rates.
Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist from Johns Hopkins University, called this theory “dangerously wrong” and warned that the combination of more testing and more cases is a very bad sign. Trump’s political rivals seized on the comments, too. Symone Sanders, senior advisor to presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, went on Fox News the very next day. Sanders called Trump’s remarks on testing, “the most damning thing from that rally” and accused the President of consciously misleading the public. Senator Kamala Harris, a candidate to become Joe Biden’s running mate, issued a letter to several individuals including the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). In its body, she called for a formal investigation into Trump’s remarks as well as his insinuation that he had helped “slow down” testing.
Gilead Science’s recent announcement that it will charge over $3,000 for a dose of its antiviral drug remdesivir will surely add a new chapter to Washington’s fight over COVID-19. Clinical trials have shown the drug, which retails for just a few dollars, can improve outcomes for COVID-19 patients. Pharmaceutical pricing and access to healthcare have already been popular topics on the campaign trail and in halls of Congress throughout the year. Prepare for these conversations to get even louder.
COVID-19 has also divided civilians along political lines. 76% of Americans who identify as Democrats or tend to lean Democratic believe that the worst of the crisis is still to come. Just 23% of Republicans agree.
The Fight Against COVID-19
Dr. Fauci sounded more hopeful at the start of June when he suggested that the United States could have “a couple of hundred million” doses of a COVID-19 vaccine by early 2021. In addition to vaccine trials, scientists are at work determining if existing drugs (like remdesivir) can help treat the virus. The New England Journal of Medicine recently published the most promising news yet. Dexamethasone, a cheap and plentiful corticosteroid, has been shown to reduce fatalities in COVID-19 patients with severe symptoms. While the study has not been peer reviewed, it suggests that the end of this crisis could be in sight.
Until a cure exists, seniors are reminded to stay safe, adhere to state and local guidelines, and keep themselves informed.