The Current Virus Surge Could Last Weeks

SK Ashby
Written by SK Ashby

The number of coronavirus infections officially recorded in the United States peaked at about 36,000 in one day in April, but over the past week we've settled into recording up to 40,000 or more per day on a consistent basis.

The numbers will go down again at some point, theoretically, but when?

Former U.S. officials say our current surge will likely last for weeks because there's a lag between the initial infections and symptoms or positive tests; meaning someone who was infected last week before several states ordered bars to close may not know it for a couple more weeks. And there's an even greater lag between initial infection and death.

The warnings by Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control from 2009 to 2017, and Scott Gottlieb, the former head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, came as a new poll showed confidence in how the U.S. is dealing with Covid-19 has fallen. [...]

Also on “Face the Nation,” Gottlieb said the spread of the virus was likely to continue growing in the absence of requirements for the “universal masking” of people in affected states.

Requiring people to wear masks is “the simplest intervention that we could take” to stop the spread of the virus, Gottlieb said.

It was false to dismiss the recent surge in daily cases as a function of a ramping up in testing, Frieden said. A lower death rate was also potentially misleading, he said, with reported deaths likely to lag a surge in cases by about a month.

Moreover, they say the numbers we're seeing likely do not represent the full picture because there are a lot of infections we don't know about because people haven't been tested or don't show symptoms.

The current record rates of newly reported cases at 40,000 or more in recent days likely reflected a far bigger outbreak, Gottlieb said.

By the CDC’s own reckoning, the real number of infections was 5 to 10 times that being reported, Gottlieb said, and that meant the real rate of new infections was likely to be a “quarter-million” each day.

While simply wearing a mask is the easiest thing that anyone can do, the issue of wearing one has become political, at least in part, because Trump continues to set a very bad example.

But don't get the idea that Trump's public complacency is mirrored in private. Trump's public recklessness is a political act, but he's privately taking precautions that average Americans don't have.

When he travels to locations where the virus is surging, every venue the President enters is inspected for potential areas of contagion by advance security and medical teams, according to people familiar with the arrangements. Bathrooms designated for the President's use are scrubbed and sanitized before he arrives. Staff maintain a close accounting of who will come into contact with the President to ensure they receive tests.

While the White House phases out steps such as temperature checks and required mask-wearing in the West Wing -- changes meant to signal the country is moving on -- those around the President still undergo regular testing.

The President of the United States should be protected whether it's Trump or anyone else, of course, but his private caution is contradicted by his public declaration that everything is Great Again. The virus is "going away" he said just a few days ago.

I can't help but think that even if our current surge ended tomorrow, we would see another one as soon as Americans get bored and decide the virus is over. Again. And if a vaccine isn't ready until the end of the year or next year (or never), a majority of the country may be infected by then as future waves capture new people who weren't infected in the previous wave.

I miss going to my favorite places, too, but it's just not worth it. That draft beer is nowhere near good enough to take the risk and going out for that and getting infected now just means it will take even longer for it to be safe.