Everyone needs to wear a mask, emergency doctor says
Dr. Hilary Fairbrother, an emergency medicine physician in Texas, discusses the importance of mask-wearing amid the pandemic.
LOS ANGELES – The United States, which is home to approximately 4% of the world’s population, currently contains more than 25% of all the world’s coronavirus cases — a staggering disparity that health experts are warning could soon overwhelm the capacity of the U.S. health care system.
According to data provided by Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, there were 2,910,023 confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. out of 11,516,782 confirmed cases around the world as of July 6.
The grim statistic comes at a time when confirmed cases are on the rise in 41 out of 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, and the percentage of tests coming back positive for the virus is increasing in 39 states.
Florida, which recorded an all-time daily high of 11,400 cases on July 5, and has seen its positive test rate over the past two weeks soar to more than 18%, has been hit especially hard, along with other Sunbelt states.
In Florida’s Miami-Dade County, which has a population of 2.7 million, Miami Mayor Carlos Gimenez issued an emergency order closing restaurants and certain other indoor places — including gyms and vacation rentals — seven weeks after they were allowed to reopen.
Around the country, health officials have warned that the surge is being driven in large part by younger people who are disregarding social distancing rules and that they could easily spread the virus to older, more vulnerable people, such as their parents and grandparents.
The coronavirus is blamed for over a half-million deaths worldwide, including more than 130,000 in the U.S., according to the tally kept by Johns Hopkins University. The number of confirmed infections nationwide stood at 2.9 million, though the real number is believed by health experts to be at least 10 times higher.
New cases per day nationwide have hit record levels, with the U.S. marking a single-day total of 50,000 new infections for the first time last week. The daily new case count in the country has surged more than 80% over the past two weeks, according to an Associated Press analysis.
Average deaths per day have fallen over the same period from around 600 to about 510, in what experts say reflects advances in treatment and prevention, as well as the large share of cases among young adults, who are more likely than older ones to survive COVID-19.
But health experts have cautioned that an increase in deaths can lag for weeks behind surges in new infections, since it takes time for people to become sick and experience declines in their health after they are infected with COVID-19.
The surge in new cases, including in states like Arizona, Florida, Texas and California, has been blamed in part on Americans not wearing masks or obeying other social-distancing rules. The rising cases has prompted some governors to halt the reopening of businesses or to order others to re-close.
“We intubated a 26-year-old this last week. We had three members of one family in an ICU. It’s devastating. It feels like people are willing to play Russian roulette with their family’s lives,” said Dr. Brad Dreifuss, an emergency physician and public health specialist in Tucson, Arizona.
Speaking at a media briefing last week, World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “Six months ago, none of us could have imagined how our world – and our lives – would be thrown into turmoil by this new virus,” Ghebreyesus said. “The pandemic has brought out the best and the worst of humanity.”
The U.S. still has more confirmed cases than any other nation by a significant margin with over 2.7 million, a situation so extreme that the European Union barred American travelers from visiting its member nations. In recent days, the United States has broken its own records for new confirmed case counts.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the leading health expert on the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S., warned this week that the U.S. could see 100,000 new cases if the current situation does not improve.
“I’m very concerned,” Fauci said during a Congressional testimony on Tuesday, where he was joined by other health leaders, including CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield and FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn.
“I can’t make an accurate prediction, but it’s going to be very disturbing, I will guarantee you that. Because when you have an outbreak in one part of the country, even though in other parts of the country they’re doing well, they are vulnerable,” Fauci said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.