One of the world’s leading infectious disease specialists warned this week that the “worst is yet to come” in the widening Covid-19 pandemic.
Around the world, the virus is spreading rapidly, though some places, like South Korea, Singapore and New Zealand have tamped the fire down with widespread testing, contact tracing and quarantine, in Brazil, Iran and India infection rates are soaring. Globally, nearly 11 million cases of Covid-19 have been reported in more than 180 countries.
In the United States, surges in infections and hospitalizations are affecting the majority of states, with particularly dramatic spikes in Florida, Arizona and Texas. Nearly 2.7 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with the virus, and deaths total more than 128,000.
Six months into this world health crisis, things are not getting better. They’re looking a lot worse, and the end is not yet in sight, despite reassuring news that a vaccine may be ready by the end of the year.
“We all want this to be over. We all want to get on with our lives. But the hard reality is this is not even close to being over,” World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters June 29. “The worst is yet to come. I’m sorry to say that…with this kind of environment and condition, we fear the worst.”
The daily coronavirus drumbeat seems to bear out his fears. Nationally, new cases of Covid-19 topped 53,000 July 2. Houston hospitals reported they would soon exceed capacity to treat Covid-19 patients, while Arizona was similarly scrambling to deal with a huge spike in cases, hiring thousands of nurses from out of state and expanding hospital space. Meanwhile, Georgia, Florida and several other states reported record-breaking one-day totals of new Covid-19 cases.
Many experts blame the rise in cases on the reopening of state economies too quickly and without sufficient care. When they began reopening, no states had met guidelines set by the CDC, and their unbridled optimism as well as economic pressure may have led the public to disregard safety precautions sooner than they should have, gathering in groups to celebrate, not wearing masks or observing social distancing. Particular troubling has been the spike in cases among younger people, who flocked to bars and beaches after their long quarantine.
So dramatic has been the rise in new cases that several governors were forced to backtrack or put the brakes on reopening, mandate masks in public, re-shutter bars and beaches, and cancel July Fourth public celebrations.
Dr. Anthony Fauci of the NIH called the surges “disturbing” and predicted that the country could see 100,000 new Covid-19 cases per day unless stricter measures were reinstated. Other medical experts gave even more dire warnings,
“This is really the beginning,” Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the CDC, said in a Journal of the American Medical Association interview. “I think there was a lot of wishful thinking around the country that, hey it’s summer. Everything’s going to be fine, we’re over this. We are not even beginning to be over this. We have way too much virus across the country for that right now, so it’s very discouraging.”