Coronavirus: Alarming rise in confirmed cases in U.S. states spared from first outbreaks
While coronavirus cases in the former New York epicenter have been steadily declining in recent weeks, new cases are appearing in other areas of the United States.
States like Texas, California, Arizona, Arkansas, Mississippi, Utah, North Carolina, and South Carolina have seen increased rates of positive COVID-19 tests. Many of these are thought to be due to activities on Memorial Day weekend, during which crowds gathered this weekend to potentially expose themselves.
Coronavirus cases decline in New York, but remain steadfast in the rest of the USA (graphic: David Foster / Yahoo Finance)
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"Exposure was minimal in many parts of the country," said Dr. David Katz, preventive medicine specialist and president of the public health and true health initiative, in The Ticker by Yahoo Finance. “People followed the rules, protected, socially distant. And now there is a kind of accidental return to the world without much care, without reliable use in some places with masks and personal protective equipment. "
"We closed the barn door after the horses were out"
When the coronavirus pandemic first hit the United States, states like New York, New Jersey, California, Illinois and Michigan experienced an overwhelming number of cases and pushed many hospitals to the brink.
New York City became the U.S. epicenter of the virus with more than 385,000 cases and over 30,000 deaths on June 12. However, the number of cases has declined in recent weeks, and the city and other regions of the state have also entered stages of reopening.
There are over 2 million coronavirus cases in the United States (graphic: David Foster / Yahoo Finance)
"New York City was clearly hit by a wave that flooded New York," said Katz. "Honestly, I think in New York we closed the barn door after the horses were outside. There was a high level of exposure, especially in the city with subway drivers. Most people who are susceptible to infections in New York City may have gotten them. "
Slow reactions now lead to infections elsewhere, Dr. Michael Saag, deputy dean for global health at the University of Alabama in Birmingham.
Volunteer Elizabeth Castro asks people in line to stand 6 feet apart on April 25, 2020 on Greenwich Street in Reading, PA. (Photo by Ben Hasty / MediaNews Group / Reading Eagle via Getty Images)
"We were a little late in getting people to stay at home," said Saag in Yahoo Finance's The Ticker. “Other countries were much more confident and aggressive in this regard. New Zealand has had no cases in the past month. It is a small country, but still. Australia - nine cases a day. Germany has fewer cases per day for the entire country than we do in the state of Alabama with only 4 million inhabitants. "
Alabama has more than 22,000 coronavirus cases with 755 deaths and has seen a significant increase in new cases in the past week. The state, like many others who saw a rise, opened its economy much earlier than others.
"If they don't pay attention to protecting the vulnerable, these spikes can in certain cases lead to mortality spikes and overload the medical system," said Katz. "That shouldn't happen. We have learned enough to prevent this. But it really depends on government policy."
There are over 7.5 million coronavirus cases worldwide. (Graphic: David Foster / Yahoo Finance)
Not so socially distant protests
In addition to growing concerns about an increase in coronavirus cases, recent protests have taken place in the past week in response to George Floyd's murder and police brutality against black Americans.
While some protesters have tried to wear masks and distance themselves socially, many have decided against wearing a mask and have gathered in large crowds. This increases the potential for virus spread.
"Even if it is peaceful, when you are in a large crowd, when you scream, when you get upset, when you sweat, when you push, there is physical contact," said Katz. "There is a high probability that droplets will be transmitted through the air. It is basically a worst-case scenario to avoid super-spreader events."
"If someone in this crowd is infected with COVID-19 and can transmit it, certainly in the immediate vicinity, passions flare up, droplets fly, really bad scenario," he continued. "I think, given the circumstances, we can only encourage people who take part in protests to be as careful as possible with personal protection."
Black Lives Matter's Mark Henry Jr. speaks to a crowd in an area called Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ) in streets that were re-opened to pedestrians on June 11, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by JASON REDMOND / AFP via Getty Images)
Katz noted that if everyone wears a mask in this situation, it would definitely make a difference.
"They definitely don't want the end of the biggest infectious disease crisis to end in living memory," Hey, let's move on to mass public protests and basically sparring with the police right now with nothing in between, "he said. "Because everyone wrote about it 'Super Spreader'."
According to Saag, not only the cases per day, but also the hospital stays are crucial. He expects a bump as a result of the protests by July 1.
"Do you remember the beginning when we were concerned that Manhattan was overwhelming its healthcare system," he said. "I am very concerned that many rural hospitals, smaller towns, will be overwhelmed and overcrowded with cases, and that will affect health care for many people in the country in general."
Chelsea Donis, a Compton Early College High School graduate, adjusts her mortar after picking up her diploma in a parking lot during a graduation ceremony in Compton, California. REUTERS / Mario Anzuoni
"The virus is spreading"
The other concern is the timing of new cases: as the fall season approaches, the flu season approaches.
"The virus is spreading," said Saag. "Come August, we're going to school again. And we're going back to the colleges. And we're doing everything we can to remedy the situation. But I'm really worried that we'll go into the fall and see another surge."
Some schools, such as Harvard University, keep most classes online to prevent campus outbreaks.
"Will it actually come back in the fall and infect people at risk?" Said Katz. "We'll see. Nobody really knows. Past pandemics have done that. But we can't know because this is a different scenario."
And if a company is actually able to find, develop, and test a coronavirus vaccine safely, it can't guarantee that everyone will actually get one.
In New York City, USA, workers are waiting for the bus. (Photo by John Lamparski / NurPhoto via Getty Images)
"We have some problems to solve," said Katz. “The first is that we have difficulty getting people to use vaccines that have long been recognized, reliable, safe and effective. And this will be a new one on a fast timeline. It will only be effective if it works, if it is very safe, if it is mass-produced, if it is universal and if people accept it. And we have that strong anti-vax feeling in the country. "
He added that "we may be overusing a vaccine and think that if there are actually many obstacles to it being the ultimate public health solution, the public response to a vaccine among them is a panacea . "
Adriana is a reporter and political and health policy editor at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @adrianambells.
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