When the coronavirus pandemic took the world by surprise, many countries averted disaster by pursuing swift, unified responses. South Korea implemented widespread testing traced people’s contacts to alert those exposed. Taiwan began isolating every infected patient and launched digital campaigns to disseminate safety information.
The US response, by contrast, was painfully slow.
More than five months after the nation’s first case was reported, the average number of daily new cases is approaching levels seen at the height of the outbreak in April. The US reported more than 32,000 new daily infections on Saturday – its highest number since May 1. By Sunday, the nation’s seven-day average of new cases had increased 24% since the week prior.
At least 23 states are seeing increases in daily coronavirus cases. That includes a number of Southern states like Florida, Texas, Alabama, and Arkansas. Florida’s seven-day average of new infections grew by nearly 87% from this week to last. The state also reported its highest daily total of coronavirus cases in the pandemic so far on Saturday: more than 4,000. In Alabama, more than quarter of the state’s total coronavirus cases have been reported in the last two weeks.
“This is a continuation of the first wave,” Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security, told Business Insider. “Some places that might have been relatively spared early on in the winter and the spring are now facing cases higher than they had before.”
While early outbreaks in places like the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, and New York City were exacerbated by testing shortages and a lack of disease surveillance, the latest surge in cases may be fueled by states reopening without effective contact tracing.
“The virus is going to exploit any interaction between people, so it doesn’t surprise me that there are more cases where people have been interacting more,” Adalja said.
Despite this worrisome trend, the White House coronavirus task force hasn’t held a daily press briefing in almost two months. On June 16, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, told a local NPR station that he hadn’t spoken to President Donald Trump in two weeks.
That same day, Vice President Mike Pence wrote in The Wall Street Journal that the US was “winning the fight” against the coronavirus. Fears of a second wave of infections, he added, were “overblown.” On Friday, President Trump told the Journal that the US was nearing the end of the pandemic.
In reality, flaws in the US’s response are snowballing as cases threaten to spiral out of control yet again.