Cases ebbed and flowed in various states throughout the summer, creating a relatively stable — although unacceptably high — national average of around 40,000 new daily cases. However, with daily infections recently reaching 70,000 per day, it is clear that the country has entered an alarming new stage of the pandemic.
Unfortunately, our data indicate that the situation is only going to worsen in the coming weeks. It is clear that without concerted interventions at the multi-state level, up to and including broad lockdowns as several European countries have announced this week, the U.S. has likely not yet seen the worst of this wave. Given that we are seeing hospitals beginning to reach capacity in several hotspots, any additional burdens on strained healthcare systems will cost lives.
On Healthweather.us, our model is predicting accelerating cases in 19 states this week. A significant number of these are states where cases are already high, making the prospect of further growth in these areas extremely alarming.
In Texas, for example, El Paso County amounts to a COVID-19 emergency. Heightened transmission rates over the past two months have driven daily new cases to a staggering 140 per 100,000 population, and with the rate of illness transmission (Rt) remaining at a very high level, we believe this situation could get even worse if no action is taken.
Additionally, New Mexico, Utah, and western Idaho are all experiencing sharp rises in cases, while the rate of transmission remains elevated at atypically high levels, indicating that case growth will likely continue.
This is a crucial inflection point for the country. With colder weather driving people indoors, an upcoming election that could lead to long lines at polling stations, and the reality that significant numbers of people will travel during the holiday season raises the prospects of a rapid acceleration of cases and deaths. Strong public health leadership is needed to turn the tide.