The United States took another dark step on Friday night,topped the one-day record for new coronavirus cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, surpassing the previous summer’s high.
At the height of the outbreak, on July 16, the United States recorded more than 77,362 new cases of COVID-19.
The news follows a study by Washington University School of Medicine that predicted that more than 500,000 Americans could die by the end of February in part because of the current patchwork of COVID-19 mandates and the inconsistent use of masks to prevent the spread of the virus.
“We’re heading into a very significant fall-winter push,” said Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington School of Medicine. “We expect this surge to increase steadily in individual states, and nationally will continue to increase as we head towards fairly high levels of daily mortality in late December and January.”
The new case record, confirmed at 83,757 by Johns Hopkins University, could be the product of the seasonality of the virus, pandemic fatigue and the return to schools and universities, said Bob Bednarczyk, assistant professor of global health and of epidemiology at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University. .
“It’s really a number of factors that come together,” he said. “And what worries me 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 more easily during the fall and winter months – similar to the flu.
Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, said this seasonality is due to the molecular structure and biology of the virus andthe fact that people stay indoors during the colder months.
“None of this is surprising,” he said, “and that’s what’s frustrating.”
Bednarczyk said Americans could also become lax as the pandemic continues. People may start to see other people outside of their ‘pandemic bubble’, may not wear masks inside someone’s home, or mayattend a gathering with a few extra guests.
“Pandemic fatigue is a real thing,” he said. “People are just starting to get tired of wearing masks and staying away, and taking personal stock of how safe they are and trying to get back to a sense of normalcy.”
Mina predicts that the peak in cases will far exceed the peak seen in summer.
United States missed opportunity to suppress spread of COVID-19 in preparation for the fall, he added, and now the nation is faced with impossible decisions.
“There are really no good solutions anymore,” he said.