Story at a glance
- Many U.S. states, primarily in the Midwest and Southwest are seeing historic new cases of COVID-19 infections.
- Public health experts advise limiting holiday gatherings as the season approaches.
Roughly nine months into the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. continues to lead the world in confirmed COVID-19 cases — and is inching closer toward a record high of 8 million confirmed cases across the entire country, according to data from Johns Hopkins.
Currently reporting approximately 7,988,893 coronavirus infections, the infection rate continues to rise. States located in the Midwest and Southwestern parts of the nation are seeing some of the steepest increases in new cases, even surpassing daily infection records reported at the onset of the pandemic earlier this year.
North and South Dakotas, Montana, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Alaska, and New Mexico are among some of the states with high rates of infection that continue to increase.
“We're not competing at combating the virus,” said New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D). “The virus is now winning.”
In response to a staggering uptick in positive cases as well as hospitalizations, Grisham implemented a curfew of 10 p.m. for restaurants and bars and limited social gatherings to no more than five people.
Fatalities in the United States associated with the virus are not rising as dramatically as new cases, but still stand at the world record of 217,904 deaths — a number that continues to grow.
“We could be looking potentially [at] one of the worst phases of the epidemic,” Peter Hotez, a professor of tropical diseases at Baylor University’s College of Medicine said to CNN. “Some estimates from the Institute for Health Metrics in Seattle are saying we can double the number of deaths sometime after the inauguration.”
As fall slowly turns into winter and cold temperatures arrive, public health officials are encouraging people to remain indoors and socially distance as much as possible. Some, like Anthony Fauci and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have encouraged Americans to skip holiday activities like trick-or-treating and even Thanksgiving dinner gatherings.
“Get ready for a really tough time this winter,” Hotez said.
The fight against the pandemic is expected to turn by 2021, with the development of effective vaccines and treatments for COVID-19.
“This terrible period will not go on forever. I do think we’re gonna be in a much better place by the middle of next year,” Hotez explained, citing vaccine availability that will help vaccinate a “significant percentage” of the population against COVID-19.
Some of the frontrunners for developing a safe and successful COVID-19 vaccine include AstraZeneca, Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, all of which are in late-stage clinical trials.