Story at a glance
- CDC officials Robert Redfield and Jay Butler discussed the jumps in coronavirus cases, saying there could be many drivers.
- They confirmed that anything could happen come fall, but it is critical to be "over prepared."
During a media telebriefing, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) discussed the increase in coronavirus cases across multiple states, stating that there are likely a diverse number of causes explaining the upticks.
CDC Director Robert Redfield and the CDC Deputy Director of Infectious Diseases and COVID-19 Response Incident Manager Jay Butler began by acknowledging the difficulty recent public health protocols have caused for the American public, and took time to thank the American people for their help in mitigating the spread.
They also announced new guidelines for returning to public life have been posted on the agency’s website.
“The number of new cases each day has been relatively plateaued over a prolonged period of time,” Butler said, referring to national trends. He also acknowledged the recent spikes in newly reported cases across multiple states, and identified it as a multifactorial situation, which means the cause is likely different in different areas.
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“Sometimes an increase [in cases] is driven by an increase in availability in testing, sometimes it is driven by outbreaks,” Butler explained, “and we’ve seen outbreaks in certain educational settings, in long-term care facilities, early on we saw clusters of infections in shelters for people experiencing homelessness, and sometimes there’s an increase in transmission in the community as well.”
Further research into specific regions can determine what the drivers of the upticks are.
Regarding the reopening of select states whose case numbers appear to be increasing, Butler said the two are not necessarily dependent on one another. He did concede, however, that seeing more cases as states reopen is possible.
“It is important to recognize that temporal association does not prove causation, and that’s one of the reasons why we don’t just sit back and look at the numbers, but also try to get visibility in the community of what’s actually going on,” Butler stated.
He confirmed that hospitalizations are one of the best metrics for measuring more severe illnesses rather than a higher volume of diagnosing more asymptomatic patients. Emergency department utilization for COVID-19-like illnesses and ICU admissions due to respiratory infections are also reliable measures to gauge severe cases.
Looking nationally, Butler says hospitalization rates are trending downward and not rising with the number of new cases.
“We know the pandemic is not over,” he added, citing serology data showing that the vast majority of Americans have not been exposed to the virus. Butler admitted that large increases in cases could result in stricter lockdown measures being reapplied.
“If cases begin to go up again, and particularly if they go up dramatically, it’s important to recognize that more ... mitigation efforts such as were implemented back in March may be needed again, and that is a decision that really needs to be made locally,” he said.
The CDC is currently working with states to increase testing and using it to monitor the virus's spread and help isolate individuals who test positive. Redfield also confirmed that the CDC is still looking into the increase in cases. Instituting “aggressive surveillance,” including antiviral testing is highly recommended to help protect some of the most vulnerable people, such as nursing home residents, meatpacking plant workers and prison inmates.
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