Protests over the death of African-American George Floyd have filled the streets of the United States, and footage of his funeral, his family’s testimonies in Congress, and calls for both systemic racism and police reform have made headlines. Donald Trump has announced that he is returning to election rallies – always massive – this June 19 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, just five months away from the presidential election this November.
It has already announced more events in the coming weeks in four other states. More and more local governments are setting up restrictions and opening up their economies, as Americans take to the streets and resume their jobs. Anthony Fauci, the Trump Administration’s “Peter Simon,” is virtually missing from the stage. Has the US forgotten about coronavirus?
This week, the US topped 2 million confirmed cases of coronavirus. Donald Trump has affirmed, however, that the virus in the United States is already just a few “ambers” and “ashes” of a pandemic already overcome. Looking at the total figures, you could be right: the daily cases registered in the country seem stable or go down slightly from the peak in late April; The daily death count with COVID-19 has also decreased. However, looking closer, the problem is far from resolved. Total figures fall thanks to New York recovery, the great epicentre of the pandemic in the United States, which registered more cases in April than any other country. Faced with the recovery of New York and New Jersey, coronavirus infections are multiplying in other interior states, which so far seemed to have prevented the worst of the pandemic.
The new infections, more diversified around the country, are on the rise in at least 23 states (out of 52 in the country), according to data collected by the US press based on confirmed cases in the last 14 days. States such as Texas, Arizona, South Carolina, Utah, Alaska, and Oregon are among those with the steepest growth curve. In total, the United States registers more than 2,023,300 cases and 113,820 deaths, the most affected in the world, and the virus seems to continue to circulate widely within the country, leaving the great focus of New York and entering with force in other states as it grows, economies are reopening. Some of the most radical in its reopening, such as Texas and Florida, are among those who have seen their numbers of daily infections grow.
According to official figures, some of the states mentioned even report more than 1,000 new cases a day. The daily deaths throughout the country also exceed one thousand.
And it is not just detected infections, a figure whose increase could perhaps be associated with a greater number of diagnostic tests performed. A spike in coronavirus-related hospitalizations is being reported in more than a dozen states, according to data provided by CNN and the COVID Tracking Project. For the third day in a row this week, Texas has recorded record hospitalization, a 42% increase since May 25.
Arizona, a state that has seen both its daily number of infections and hospitalizations grow, this week has urged its hospitals to activate emergency plans to face the new wave of cases. Local authorities warn that if the streak continues, hospitals could be full by the end of the month.
“We have seen a steady climb of COVID-19 cases in Arizona in the last two weeks. Our ICUs are very busy caring for the sickest of the sick who are battling COVID-19. Since May 15 May, COVID-19 patients have quadrupled,” Banner Health, one of the largest hospital conglomerates in the area, has warned.
Our ICUs are very busy caring for the sickest of the sick who are battling COVID-19. Since May 15, ventilated COVID-19 patients have quadrupled. Banner Health also recently reached capacity for patients receiving extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) treatment. (2/3)
— Banner Health (@BannerHealth) June 8, 2020
Arizona is, curiously, one of the four states where Trump intends to hold his election rallies first, along with Oklahoma (the first date, in Tulsa this June 19), Florida and North Carolina. Although the virus curve (infections, hospitalizations and deaths) is controlled in Oklahoma, where they remain stable, both in Arizona and Florida and North Carolina the numbers are growing.
And it’s only the beginning. According to experts, protests at the death of George Floyd by the hands of a white police officer, which have been registered in more than 200 cities across the country, large and small, will fuel the virus, easily contagious in a context of little social distance, many contacts between people and screams that scatter the small droplets of saliva full of viral load. That is, in the next week, the US epidemiologists calculate, a new increase could be registered in confirmed cases.
The spike that is being detected now, especially that of hospitalizations, coincides with the aggressive reopening of many US states after the celebration on May 25 of ‘Memorial Day’. After weeks of measures against the spread of the virus, from the closure of stores to the banning of massive events, including recommendations to stay home depending on each state, “people want to return to their lives,” the US press headlines. And so it is.
Ignored at the White House
From the Trump Administration, they want the coronavirus to pass as soon as possible. Despite the fact that the protests could be a super contagious event, Trump has hardly mentioned this aspect. In general, drawing attention to the coronavirus is also drawing attention to the errors of the first American response, which ranged from ignoring the virus to coordination errors.
Now it’s time to focus on the election campaign, with Trump’s victory much more uncertain than just a few months ago. As reported by the NYT, citing Administration sources, Trump now attends far fewer briefings by the White House task force on the coronavirus. Also much more absent are Fauci, the national infection expert who appeared for practically every week on US television for weeks, and Deborah L. Brix, coordinator of the Trump Administration’s response to the coronavirus. And without the media blitz of data and new concerns, the public is also getting on with their lives.
Vice President Mike Pence (who precisely leads the White House task force against the coronavirus) posted a photo on his social networks this week with a crowd of campaign volunteers crowded into a room, none wearing masks. He had to delete the tweet. Distracted by racial protests, often laden with an anti-Trump component and with Democratic voters among the protagonists, there appears to be a tacit agreement to stop denouncing the spread of the virus so insistently among the Democratic congressmen themselves, notes The New York Times.
In this scenario of reopening and turning the page, although the new normality may still seem far away, medical experts cited by CNN point to “tens of thousands” of more deaths in the US by September, “between 800 and 1,000 daily.” “I think that right now, most Americans are not ready to confine themselves again, and I fully understand it. However, here is the bottom line, which is that: People seem to be willing to live alongside this virus. “Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Institute of Global Health, told CNN. “It means that 800 to 1,000 Americans will die every day. We will have another 100,000 deaths by September. It is a catastrophic cost,” he concluded.