The US Is Done With COVID-19, But it Isn’t Done With the US
It’s been months now since U.S. President Donald Trump predicted his miracle.
That was back in February, during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the president announced that come April, when the weather got warmer, the coronavirus would “miraculously [go] away.”
It didn’t. And nor has it been reduced to “ashes,” as Trump claimed on June 5 when, arguing for a rapid reopening of the economy, he said, “We want the continued blanket lockdown to end for the states.
We may have some embers or some ashes, or we may have some flames coming, but we’ll put them out. We’ll stomp them out.”
Instead, the U.S. is very much on fire, well into a second phase of the crisis, with the COVID-19 caseload steadily rising to more than 2 million confirmed cases and more than 113,00 deaths.
According to a TIME analysis, 25 states are continuing to see case counts grow day by day. Four of those states—Arizona, California, Mississippi and North Carolina—have yet to decline for any extended window even temporarily; the rest appear to have initially bent the curve downward and are now experiencing a second wave of infections.
And in many of those cases, the second phase is worse than the first, or on track to erase any encouraging declines in the past month.
In Oregon, for example, the state appeared to flatten the curve very early, peaking at 1.76 cases per 100,000 people on April 2 and declining to 0.8 by May 24.
In the intervening two weeks, a resurgent wave has pushed that figure past its previous peak to 2.3 as of June 8—and still likely to grow.
These disparate trends are invisible on a national level. Improvements in some areas—New York, New Jersey and other parts of the Northeast—have been offset by worsening conditions elsewhere, leaving the U.S. as a whole stubbornly plateaued at about 6 cases per 100,000 people.
In Texas, the seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases per day has been over 1,000 since May 25.
This development led Governor Greg Abbott to concede on a local news broadcast, “I am concerned, but not yet alarmed.” He should be, though.
On May 14, the state’s seven-day average crested at 1,305 cases per day and then started to fall. But in recent weeks, it’s climbed back up, and is now at 1,703.
These alarming spikes are apparent even when a state never enjoyed a temporary lull.
Arizona, which has yet to appear to peak even momentarily, has seen 7,700 new cases in the first week of June, with patient load tripling in the past three weeks in hospitals owned by Banner Health, the state’s largest hospital provider.
Yet the pandemic, if not remotely yesterday’s news, has begun to fade as a front-of-mind issue, pushed out both by the recent demonstrations against police brutality and systemic racism, triggered by the May 25 murder of George Floyd, and perhaps a sort of cultural numbing to all things COVID.
The White House Coronavirus Task Force, whose press conferences were daily fixtures in the early months of the crisis, now convenes three times a week instead of daily—with Vice President Mike Pence, the group’s chair, attending only one of those three regular sessions—and there has not been a press conference in the last month.
On June 12, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had its first media telebriefing since March 9; previously these were held at least weekly.