A long-expected upturn in the United States for coronavirus deaths has begun, driven by fatalities in states in the South and West, according to data on the pandemic.
The number of deaths per day from the virus had been falling for months and even remained down as states like Florida and Texas saw explosions in cases and hospitalizations — and reported daily U.S. infections broke records several times in recent days.
Scientists warned it wouldn’t last. A coronavirus death, when it occurs, typically comes several weeks after a person is first infected. And experts predicted states that saw increases in cases and hospitalizations would, at some point, see deaths rise, too. Now that’s happening.
“It’s consistently picking up. And it’s picking up at the time you’d expect it to,” said William Hanage, a Harvard University infectious diseases researcher.
According to an Associated Press analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University, the seven-day rolling average for daily reported deaths in the U.S. has increased from 578 two weeks ago to 664 on July 10 — still well below the heights hit in April. Daily reported deaths increased in 27 states over that time period, but the majority of those states are averaging under 15 new deaths per day. A smaller group of states has been driving the nationwide increase in deaths.
California is averaging 91 reported deaths per day while Texas is close behind with 66. But Florida, Arizona, Illinois, New Jersey and South Carolina also saw sizable rises. New Jersey’s recent jump is thought to be partially attributable to its less frequent reporting of probable deaths.
The virus has killed more than 130,000 people in the U.S. and more than a half-million worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University, though the true numbers are believed to be higher.
Deaths first began mounting in the U.S. in March. About two dozen deaths were being reported daily in the middle of that month. By late in the month, hundreds were being reported each day and thousands in April. Most happened in New York, New Jersey and elsewhere in the Northeast.
Deaths were so high there because it was a new virus tearing through a densely populated area, and it quickly swept through vulnerable groups of people in nursing homes and other places, said Perry Halkitis, dean of the Rutgers University School of Public Health in New Jersey.
Many of the infections occurred before government officials imposed stay-at-home orders and other physical-distancing measures. The daily death toll started falling in mid-April — and continued to fall until about a week ago.
Researchers now expect deaths to rise for at least several weeks, but some think the count probably will not go up as dramatically as it did in the spring — for several reasons.
First, testing was extremely limited early in the pandemic, and it’s become clear that unrecognized infections were spreading on subways, in nursing homes and in other public places before anyone knew exactly what was going on. Now testing is more widespread, and the magnitude of outbreaks is becoming better understood.
Second, many people’s health behaviours have changed, with mask-wearing becoming more common in some places. Although there is no vaccine yet, hospitals are also getting better at treating patients.
Another factor, tragically, is that deadly new viruses often tear through vulnerable populations first, such as the elderly and people already weakened by other health conditions. That means in the Northeast, at least, “many of the vulnerable people have already died,” Halkitis said.
Now, the U.S. is likely in for “a much longer, slower burn,” Hanage, the Harvard researcher, said. “We’re not going to see as many deaths [as in the spring]. But we’re going to see a total number of deaths, which is going to be large.”
What’s happening with coronavirus in Canada
As of 12:45 p.m. ET on Saturday, Canada had 107,346 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 71,266 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 8,809.
Ontario reported 130 new confirmed cases on Saturday, bringing the province’s total to 36,594.
Quebec reported 91 new cases on Saturday for a provincial total of 56,407.
WATCH | Infectious disease specialist on Ottawa paramedics’ N95 mask shortage:
In British Columbia, health officials on Friday reported 25 more cases of COVID 19 within a 24-hour period, the biggest increase since May 8.
B.C. health officials have issued a warning about possible exposure to the coronavirus in Kelowna, covering anyone who attended public and private gatherings in the downtown and waterfront areas over 12 days this summer. It’s believed eight cases may be tied to visits to local bars and restaurants between June 25 and July 6.
Several towns in Quebec’s Montérégie region have made masks mandatory after an outbreak of COVID-19 linked to house parties.
Newfoundland and Labrador on Friday reported its first new case of coronavirus in six weeks. The patient is a man in his 50s who had recently returned from the U.S., according to the provincial health department.
Meanwhile, Nova Scotia has extended its state of emergency for another two weeks. Emergency measures are now in place until July 26.
The extension was announced as the province reported no new cases of COVID-19 and one more recovery — leaving only three active cases.
Here’s what’s happening around the world
Globally more than 12.5 million people have been infected by the virus and over 560,000 have died, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Experts say the pandemic’s true toll is much higher due to testing shortages, poor data collection in some nations and other issues.
In Africa, more than 8,000 health workers have been infected, half of them in South Africa. The continent of 1.3 billion has the world’s lowest levels of health staffing and more than 550,000 cases, and the pandemic is reaching “full speed,” the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.
In Kenya, some have been outraged by a local newspaper report that says several governors have installed intensive-care unit equipment in their homes. The country lost its first doctor to COVID-19 this week.
South Africa’s confirmed coronavirus cases have doubled in just two weeks to a quarter-million. To complicate matters, the country’s troubled power utility has announced new electricity cuts in the dead of winter as a cold front brings freezing weather. Many of the country’s urban poor live in shacks of scrap metal and wood.
In Asia-Pacific, the beleaguered Australian state of Victoria received some good news, with health officials reporting 216 new cases in the past 24 hours, down from the record 288 the previous day. It hopes a new six-week lockdown in Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city with a population of five million, will curb the spread.
India reported a new daily high of 27,114 cases on Saturday, and nearly a dozen states have imposed a partial lockdown in high-risk areas.
A surge in infections saw cases jump from 600,000 to more than 800,000 in nine days. Infected people are packing India’s public hospitals, as many are unable to afford private facilities that generally uphold higher standards of care.
In the Americas, where inequality is sharp and Brazil and Peru are among the world’s top five most badly hit countries, the COVID-19 pandemic is sweeping through the continent’s leadership, with two more presidents and powerful officials testing positive in the past week.
Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro and Interim Bolivia President Jeanine Anez have both said they tested positive in the past week. Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernández announced June 16 that he and his wife had tested positive.
Many leaders have used their diagnoses to call on the public to heighten precautions like physical distancing and mask wearing. But some, like Bolsonaro, have drawn attention to unproven treatments with potentially harmful side effects.
In Europe, Greek authorities announced 41 new cases of coronavirus over the past 24 hours on Saturday, with 11 detected in incoming tourists. There were no new confirmed deaths. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases stands at 3,772 and 193 deaths.
Italy has confirmed another 188 infections, a third in the hard-hit Lombardy region. Public health officials say the outbreak remains under control in Italy, the one-time epicentre of the outbreak in Europe, but they are paying attention to clusters of domestic and international infections.
Italy halted all air traffic with Bangladesh and 13 other countries after more than two dozen cases were linked to charter flights of returning Bangladeshi immigrants. On Saturday, eight of the 19 new infections in the Lazio region around Rome were linked to the Bangladeshi community cluster.