Record-Breaking Rise in COVID-19 Cases Across the United States
Updated: Jul 21, 2020
A rise in COVID-19 cases is sweeping across the United States, with 38 states having an upward trend in cases as of July 1st. While there hasn’t been one single reason identified for this increase, the discrepancies amongst state policies regarding the requirement of masks and the opening of certain establishments has potentially contributed. Around half of the new cases were seen in individuals under 35, many of whom began socializing in newly opened indoor spaces such as bars without face coverings where they were likely infected with and transmitted the virus. Many states have begun to reinforce restrictions again, especially in COVID-19 hotspots such as Arizona, Florida, California, and Texas. Although a vaccine isn’t foreseen for at least another year, one temporary solution that has proven to be extremely effective is the universal wearing of face masks. While this seems like a simple solution, it would not only require the cooperation of every state in terms of policy-making, but also of each individual following the policies in order to protect themselves and others.
Despite previously achieved plateaus of COVID-19 cases throughout much of the United States, and the national amount of additional cases per day having dropped to below 20,000 , many parts of the country are currently facing the highest number of daily cases they have seen since the start of the pandemic. The national total of cases per day has surpassed 50,000, with a 7-day average of 58, 619 cases per day reported by the CDC on July 13th. According to the British Medicine Journal the cases were trending upwards in 38 states on July 1st. While the resurgence of the virus is widespread, the states of Florida, Arizona, California and Texas are four of the current “COVID-19 hot spots” with Dr. Anthony Fauci claiming that “50% of the increase in cases is coming from these four states alone.” If the virus isn’t further controlled to terminate this upwards trend, it is predicted that the United States could reach 100,000 additional cases per day. The questions are: what exactly is causing the increasing cases, why are some states being disproportionately affected, and most importantly, how can we stop it?
While there hasn’t been enough research to provide one single answer, there are a combination of potential factors that could be causing this drastic increase in cases. One of the most critical parts of controlling COVID-19 is both the federal and state policies regarding the virus. Since the plan for the pandemic in the United States isn’t national as it is in most other countries, there has been a division of legal power between federal and state governments. Most of the restrictions in each state are up to the governor, leading to a wide range of differences, including whether masks are required in public and what establishments have opened.
While many southern and western states opened back up as early as May 1, they are now imposing restrictions again after the recent rise in cases – for example, Arizona’s governor ordered the closing of bars, gyms, and movie theaters for 30 days, and required masks in public. Florida on the other hand only shut down some beaches – the absence of restrictions, reluctance to re-impose them, and lack of individuals following them seem to be major factors influencing the increase in cases. Around half of the recent positive cases were seen in individuals under the age of 35, and it is hypothesized that many were socializing in recently opened indoor spaces such as bars without wearing face coverings or maintaining social distance, both becoming infected with and transmitting the virus. One example supporting this idea was seen in Lansing, Michigan where officials reported that 107 positive cases identified in one day could all be traced back to one specific bar. The lack of unity in policies enforcing masks and social distancing in the United States is a potentially strong contributing factor to it being the nation with the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the world.
When considering potential solutions to the problem, there is one that seems not only incredibly effective, but simple as well: face masks. CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield claims that “we are not defenseless against COVID-19” and if everyone in the United States were to wear a mask, we would defeat the virus in 8 weeks. This not only would require cooperation of every state in terms of policy-making, but also of each individual following the policies in order to protect themselves and others. One study run by the American Medical Association showed the power of masks in a medical setting. Over the study period, all Massachusetts General Brigham hospital healthcare workers and patients were required to wear a face covering inside the hospital. Despite the COVID-19 case number in Massachusetts increasing throughout the study period, the universal masking at MGB resulted in a significantly lower rate of Sars-Cov-2 (virus) positivity amongst healthcare workers. Another study run by the CDC followed two hair stylists who were infected with COVID-19 but followed local ordinance in their salon and made all employees and clients wear face coverings, resulting in 67 of their clients who agreed to testing showing no signs of infection. While the current problem the United States is facing is serious, studies such as these show that the potential solution could be easy, and suggest that while the universal wearing of masks won’t necessarily put an end to the virus, it will be a firm step in the right direction towards ending the current case increase we are seeing.