- Exponential growth in new cases continues in the U.S.
As today’s graph shows, the epidemic cycle is in full swing. We still can’t tell how this is a story just about testing or about the epidemic. It is certainly both. A total of 3,941 new cases were reported on Thursday, a 1-day rise of 49%. This tells us that U.S. cases are doubling every 2 days.
What does this mean? This trend will continue as samples waiting to be tested pile up amidst a growing backlog at labs. While these trends are scary, this is what we have been expecting. It does mean that people should rethink if they believe this epidemic is going to blow over in a couple of weeks. What we are seeing is what happens in the foul weather of a viral hurricane.
- COVID-19 shifts from regional to national in scope
In my opinion, the epidemic has shifted over the last few weeks from impacting 1 or 2 states, to impacting whole regions, and now the impact can be seen at the level of the nation. Why? Hot-spots can be seen in all 4 U.S. regions. In the West, large case increases were seen in Arizona (61% rise), Hawaii (63%), and Nevada, where 50 new cases were reported (a jump of 111%). Hot-spots in the Midwest are visible in Illinois (47%), Indiana (41%), Kansas (62%), Oklahoma (48%), and Wisconsin (46%). Across all states, Michigan is the top hot-spot, with a startling 254 new cases on Thursday, a jump of 318%. In the South, sizable jumps are seen in Arkansas (88%), Georgia (46%), Louisiana (40%), and Texas (72%). At the same time, the Northeast continues to be hard hit, especially New Jersey (+73%) and New York, which reported a staggering 1,770 new cases (+74%). New York now has 4,152 lab-confirmed, domestically acquired cases of COVID-19, which represents just over 1/3 of all U.S. cases.
What does it mean? Big jumps in states where it is warm tell us not to expect the heat of summer to quell the outbreak entirely. Scientists remain uncertain what impact warm weather will have. The epidemic enters a phase of national-level spread. This calls for a coordinated national strategy to address a national biological challenge.
- Concerns are mounting about shortages of personal protective equipment (PPEs) for health workers
The Associated Press has been reporting on shortages of masks, gloves, gowns and other PPEs. Major U.S. hospitals are running short and re-stocking is not going to happen over-night. Problem is, we get most of these supplies from China. Exporting nations, like China and India, have taken steps requiring manufacturers to prioritize re-stocking domestic supplies. As a result, shipments of hand sanitizer and swabs from China to the U.S. dropped 40%, while N95 mask imports dropped 55% – despite skyrocketing demand for those things in the West. The pipeline of basic safety supplies is flowing at a trickle, hampered by tariffs and other trade policy measures that have not been addressed. Industry leaders are warning it will be weeks or months before supplies catch up. Meanwhile, doctors, nurses, emergency workers (let alone those taking care of loved ones at home) are running low and being forced to re-use safety equipment.
What does this mean? It must be a top national priority to address the growing shortage of PPEs for health care workers on the front lines. We wouldn’t send soldiers into battle without bullets. The social, political, medical, and moral costs of this epidemic will skyrocket if the health care system fails because there aren’t enough masks and gloves.
– Posted 3/20/20, 11:55 pm EST