Today, the United States passed a very sad milestone. Over 100,000 Americans have died due to the Covid-19 pandemic and over 1.68 million remain infected with the disease across the country. The US remains the worst affected nation in the world.
In late April, the US became the epicenter of the pandemic, meaning it had the highest number of cases globally, though global numbers have continued rising, especially in countries, states, and regions where physical distancing measures were either not employed, employed late, or have been lifted too soon. The US death toll now makes up nearly one-third of all global deaths from Covid-19.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has now declared that the Americas are the center of the Covid-19 pandemic with countries in both Central and South America's numbers rising rapidly. Carissa Etienne, WHO director for the Americas and head of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), warned of very tough weeks ahead for the region.
In the US, the national number of cases decreased by 8 percent the week ending May 17, but dropped only 0.8 percent the week ending May 24. At the state level, 13 states had an increase in the number of cases two weeks ago. Case numbers increased in 20 states, last week. New York is no longer the epicenter of the pandemic in the US. Though it has more deaths per capita than any other part of the country, it's numbers are decreasing, while numbers are increasing in Florida (up 21 percent from 2 weeks ago), North Carolina (up 44 percent), Arkansas (up 102 percent), and West Virginia (up 172 percent). California has become the fourth state with over 100,000 cases reported.
With President Donald Trump urging the easing of lockdown measures across America, and a long Memorial Weekend that saw thousands of people pack the beaches and attend pool parties that traditionally mark the start of summer, the US could be facing an upturn, not a downturn in case numbers. Despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommending that states wait for 14 days of consecutive reduction in cases before reopening, all 50 states have partially reopened. This has concerned several health officials, who are warning a second wave of outbreaks might come sooner rather than later.
In fact, public health experts say it's likely the actual death toll is much higher. "Almost certainly it's higher," Dr Anthony Fauci, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director who sits on the White House coronavirus task force, said about the death toll at a Senate hearing on May 12. "There may have been people who died at home who were not counted as COVID because they never really got to the hospital."
Many believe the devastating numbers of deaths in the United States could have been prevented but for the Trump administration's underestimation of the gravity of the pandemic. Trump's about-face, from claiming he'd known early the dangers and severity of the pandemic, to lashing out at the WHO with the much-publicized decision to cut US funding to the international body and accusing it – falsely as it has been proven – of ignoring early warnings of the pandemic, appears an attempt to shift that blame.
[H/T: The Guardian, Reuters]