America’s coronavirus death rate has started going up again, driven by Florida, Texas and other states in the South and West where infections have exploded in recent weeks.
Stark figures reveal the long-expected upturn in the nation’s daily death toll has begun, with another 802 fatalities recorded Friday.
The seven-day rolling average has jumped by almost 100 victims in the last two weeks alone, driven by record-high numbers of new cases in several southern states, which are now starting to translate into a spike in deaths.
More than 134,000 Americans have now been killed in the pandemic and a leading medical expert has warned that this could climb to 250,000 by the end of the year.
According to an Associated Press analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University, the seven-day rolling average for daily reported deaths in the US has increased from 578 two weeks ago to 664 on July 10.
This is still well below the heights hit in April when the nation’s deadliest day claimed 2,500 victims.
But experts are warning that the trajectory is concerning.
‘It’s consistently picking up. And it’s picking up at the time you’d expect it to,’ said William Hanage, a Harvard University infectious diseases researcher.
Daily reported deaths increased in 27 states in the last two weeks, driven by a smaller group of states where infections have reached record levels.
California is averaging 91 reported deaths per day while Texas is close behind with 66.
Florida, Arizona, Illinois, New Jersey and South Carolina have also recorded sizable rises.
New Jersey has also seen a recent jump although this is thought to be partially attributable to its less frequent reporting of probable deaths.
Texas is averaging 66 new deaths a day after a surge in cases across the state
Florida has also recorded a sizable rise in deaths over the last two weeks
America’s rising coronavirus death rate has been driven by Florida, Texas and other states in the South and West where infections have exploded in recent weeks. Pictured Arizona’s death tally
Cases and hospitalizations have been soaring to record levels in several southern states where officials rushed to ease lockdown restrictions early but, until now, the number of deaths per day had remained down after falling for months.
Experts warned the trend wouldn’t last and that a spike in deaths would come several weeks after a spike in infections.
The impact of the new surge in deaths has been felt by the healthcare workers grappling in overstretched hospitals to save them.
Rublas Ruiz, a Miami intensive care unit nurse, recently broke down in tears during a birthday dinner with his wife and daughter.
He said he was overcome by the number of patients who have died in his care.
‘I counted like 10 patients in less than four days in our ICU and then I stopped doing that because there were so many,’ said the 41-year-old nurse at Kendall Regional Medical Center who lost another patient Monday.
Deaths first began mounting in the US in March. About two dozen deaths were being reported daily in the middle of that month.
By late in the month, hundreds were being reported each day, and in April thousands. Most happened in New York, New Jersey and elsewhere in the Northeast.
Deaths were so high there because it was a new virus tearing through a densely populated area, and it quickly swept through vulnerable groups of people in nursing homes and other places, said Perry Halkitis, the dean of the Rutgers University School of Public Health in New Jersey.
People wait in line to enter Downtown Disney in Anaheim, California on July 9 – its first day of opening since March
Cars line up for coronavirus testing at Hansen Dam Recreation Center Tuesday in Los Angeles
Medical personnel prepare to test hundreds of people lined up in vehicles in Phoenix’s western neighborhood of Maryvale
Many of the infections occurred before government officials imposed stay-at-home orders and other social-distancing measures. The daily death toll started falling in mid-April – and continued to fall until about a week ago.
Researchers now expect deaths to rise for at least some weeks, but some think the count probably will not go up as dramatically as it did in the spring – for several reasons.
First, testing was extremely limited early in the pandemic, and it’s become clear that unrecognized infections were spreading on subways, in nursing homes and in other public places before anyone knew exactly what was going on.
Now testing is more widespread, and the magnitude of outbreaks is becoming better understood.
Second, many people’s health behaviors have changed, with mask-wearing becoming more common in some places. Although there is no vaccine yet, hospitals are also getting better at treating patients.
Another factor, tragically, is that deadly new viruses often tear through vulnerable populations first, such as the elderly and people already weakened by other health conditions.
That means that, in the Northeast at least, ‘many of the vulnerable people have already died,’ Halkitis said.
Now, the US is likely in for ‘a much longer, slower burn,’ Hanage, the Harvard researcher, said.
‘We’re not going to see as many deaths (as in the spring). But we’re going to see a total number of deaths, which is going to be large.’