Grim milestone: U.S. breaks single-day record for confirmed coronavirus cases

The word “confirmed” in the headline is important. It may well be that we had more actual cases on days in March and early April, when New York was drowning, and simply failed to detect many of them because testing at the time was more of a fond wish than a reality.


But in a way that magnifies the grimness of the current moment. We do have widespread testing now, which is supposed to help us detect new outbreaks early and suppress them. We also know more about the disease and how it’s transmitted than we did three months ago. And cloth masks are abundant to help us hold down the spread.

Even so: Nearly 39,000 confirmed infections yesterday, the highest ever for the United States. It was said frequently during April that there isn’t so much an “American epidemic” of COVID-19 as a “New York tri-state area epidemic,” which was generally true. It no longer is. New York, for the moment, is one of the safest places in the country. It’s the south and the west coast that are sinking.

Trump likes to say that the reason we’re seeing more cases is because we’re doing more testing. It’s not true. We are doing more testing, but cases are rising faster than the testing is:

The national positivity rate now stands at 7.7 percent. Just a week ago it was 4.9 percent. It’s risen more than 50 percent in seven days.


Why? Morons partying on Memorial Day, probably:

July 4th is coming up. Will we learn our lesson from this debacle and stay home or will we be the slovenly idiots that we truly are by hosting barbecues and pool parties, etc? I have every confidence that we can top today’s record in July, assuming we don’t top it sooner.

The numbers are especially ominous in the hot-spot states of California, Texas, Florida, and Arizona:

California reported more than 7,000 new cases, according to Washington Post tracking. That’s 42 percent higher than the previous peak of 5,019, set on Tuesday. Hospitalizations of people with covid-19 or suspected to have the virus were up 7 percent from the day before.

Florida blew past its previous record from the weekend by well over 1,000 cases, reporting more than 5,500 new infections in a day. The Sunshine State has broken its rolling-average new cases for 17 days now. Numbers on Florida’s current hospitalizations were not available on its dashboard, but the daily average change in cumulative hospitalizations has been edging upward…

In Arizona, intensive care unit beds are 88 percent full, while inpatient beds are 86 percent full, according to state data. Doctors and top health experts such as former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb warn that the health care system in Arizona and several other states could become overburdened. The state reports 2,270 hospitalized covid-19 patients, up from 2,136 reported Tuesday.


If the Europeans are holding off on finalizing their ban list to give us every last chance of turning things around sometime soon, they might as well pull the trigger. It’s an open question whether we’ll meaningfully flatten the new curve before fall, when public-health experts like Fauci expect things to start getting really bad as the weather turns cooler.

By the way, there’s another state that’s spiking right now that hasn’t gotten as much attention as its neighbor to the south: Oklahoma, site of Saturday night’s presidential rally, where they’ve hit a record high in the rolling average of cases 12 days in a row. Yesterday the state saw 482 confirmed cases, a four-percent jump in just 24 hours. “Record new infections were reported in Tulsa County, where President Trump held a campaign rally over the weekend,” WaPo noted in its story. Here’s the graph of the county’s outbreak. It’s, uh, dramatic:

Did … did the president’s rally seed an explosion in COVID-19 cases? Nah, said the mayor and the health department chief. Or rather, there’s no evidence of that yet. For one thing, it’s way too soon: The virus typically needs about a week to incubate and Trump’s rally was held just days ago. For another thing, they seem to have some sense of where the latest infections originated:

“We’re really going to watch the next six weeks, because chances are there were people that were exposed over the weekend … the incubation period is anywhere from two to 14 days,” and the virus could be spread for weeks after that by those exposed during the rally, said Tulsa Health Department Director Bruce Dart.

Dart and Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum said the new cases have been linked to other gatherings such as funerals, weddings and people going to bars.


We’ll check back in two weeks. In the meantime, amid all the anxiety about cases skyrocketing, the not-so-minor fact remains that deaths aren’t skyrocketing along with them. There were fewer deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. yesterday than there were a week ago despite the growth in cases. The pessimistic view of that is that it’s just a matter of time. The infection fatality rate is what it is; more cases means more deaths as a matter of simple math. It just takes awhile for a new infection to turn fatal. The optimistic view is that maybe doctors have learned enough about treating the disease in the past two months that they can hold down deaths to a significant degree. We have remdesivir and dexamethasone now; we have more widely available testing to diagnose people early as well. Maybe we’re not doomed to another death surge.

The mixed-bag view is that the lack of deaths is largely a function of the fact that infections are trending younger right now. Young adults are more likely to go party and shop, which means more cases, but they’re also more likely to survive their infections, which means fewer deaths. The mixed-bag part comes from the fact that eventually they’ll infect older people. Again, July’s shaping up to be ugly.

In lieu of an exit question, here’s CNBC reporting today that Trump’s administration plans to transition certain coronavirus testing sites from federal funding to public-private partnerships. Given that one of his major liabilities in recent polling is his handling of the pandemic, I don’t know why his team would risk a headline like “TRUMP ENDS FUNDING FOR TESTING” to save a few bucks. But here we are.


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