The U.S. reached another bleak milestone late Friday,topping the one-day record for new coronavirus cases, according to Johns Hopkins University data, surpassing the previous summer high.
At the height of the surge, on July 16, the U.S. saw more than 77,362 reported new cases of COVID-19.
The news comes on the heels of a study by the University of Washington School of Medicine that projected more than 500,000 Americans could die by the end of February in part because of the nation’s current patchwork of COVID-19 mandates and the inconsistent use of masks to prevent virus spread.
“We are heading into a very substantial fall-winter surge,” said Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine. “We expect that surge to steadily grow throughout different states, and at the national level continue to increase as we head towards quite high levels of daily death in late December and January.”
The new cases record, confirmed as 83,757 by Johns Hopkins University, may be a product of virus seasonality, pandemic fatigue and the return of schools and universities, said Bob Bednarczyk, assistant professor of global health and epidemiology at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health.
“It’s really a number of factors coming together,” he said. “And what I worry is that they’re starting to come together in a perfect storm.”
Experts say SARS-CoV-2, like other coronaviruses, is a seasonal virus that circulates easier in the fall and winter months – similar to influenza.
Michael Mina, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, said this seasonality is because of the virus’s molecular structure and biology andthe fact people stay indoors during the colder months.
“None of this is surprising,” he said, “and that’s what’s the frustrating part.”
Bednarczyk said Americans also may be getting lax as the pandemic drags on. People may be starting to see others outside of their “pandemic bubble,” might not wear masks inside someone’s home or mayattend a gathering with a few too many guests.
“Pandemic fatigue is a real thing,” he said. “People are just starting to get tired of wearing masks and staying distant, and taking personal stock of what they potentially feel safe doing in terms of trying to come back to a sense of normalcy.”
Mina predicts the spike in cases will greatly exceed the surge seen in the summer.
The U.S. missed an opportunity to suppress COVID-19 spread in preparation for the fall, he added, and now the nation is faced with impossible decisions.
“There are truly no good solutions anymore,” he said.
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