As experts feared would happen, COVID-19 deaths in the US have started to rise, following a surge in newly diagnosed cases beginning in the middle of June.
The new spikes in deaths are largest in the two most populous states, California and Texas. And while infectious disease specialists are hopeful that the number of deaths won’t grow to match the carnage seen in New York State back in April, where the death toll peaked at around 1,000 per day, it’s unclear how quickly deaths may rise in the worst affected states in the coming weeks.
“I am worried, given how rapidly things are accelerating here,” Peter Hotez, a vaccine researcher at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, told BuzzFeed News. Ominously, the Texas Tribune reported on Saturday that some counties in the state have requested refrigerated trucks, anticipating that morgues may soon be filled to capacity.
US cases and deaths, by date reported
The number of new COVID-19 cases began surging in June, especially in the South and West, weeks after many states started to reopen their economies. But through the rest of the month, daily deaths continued to decline. “I believe that at this point in the course of the pandemic, we can still take some comfort in the fact that fatalities are declining all across the country,” Vice President Mike Pence, chair of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said on June 26.
But experts warned BuzzFeed News in late June that any rise in deaths would lag behind the rise in cases by several weeks, given the delay between infection and serious illness, and the fact that many people being infected were relatively young. Also, deaths might not start to rise until the virus had spread to more vulnerable older people.
“We just reopened too fast and these are the consequences of it,” Cedric Dark, an emergency room physician at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston who has been treating COVID-19 patients, told BuzzFeed News.
Deaths by date reported for selected states
This chart highlights the trend in daily deaths for large states that have seen recent surges in cases. Florida, California, and particularly Texas have all seen sharp upticks in the number of recorded deaths in the last week.
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SOURCE: Buzzfeed News, Peter Aldhous