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A divided US faces a pandemic entering its deadliest phase

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A lame-duck presidency and political gridlock after a bitterly fought election are set to worsen the US’s coronavirus crisis just as the pandemic enters its deadliest phase, writes The Guardian.

With two months to go before a presidential handover from Donald Trump to Joe Biden, the federal government’s strategy for containing the virus has experts worried. Trump administration officials appear to have pinned their hopes on improved testing and eventual vaccine approval.

“The strategy, if you can summarise in one word, is hope,” said Dr Carlos del Rio, executive associate dean of the Emory School of Medicine and Grady Health System in Georgia. “And hope is not a strategy.”

“We are heading into the very worst of the pandemic right now,” said Dr Megan Ranney, an emergency room doctor at Brown University who has lobbied to protect healthcare workers during the pandemic. “The degree of spread of this infection and its toll on our country is going to be, to a large extent, determined by what happens in the next two months.”

The US this week the first nation to surpass 10 million coronavirus infections, according to a Reuters tally on Sunday (8 November), with about a million cases reported in the past 10 days, its highest rate of infections since the pandemic began. The country has reported over 100,000 infections four times in the past seven days.

Reuters reports that the US latest seven-day average of 105,600 daily cases is more than the combined average for India and France, two of the worst affected countries in Asia and Europe. More than 237,000 Americans have died of COVID-19.

The daily average of reported new deaths in the US account for one in every 11 deaths reported worldwide each day. The Midwest remains the hardest-hit region based on the most cases per capita with North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Nebraska the top five worst-affected US states. Illinois emerged as the new epicentre in the Midwest, with the state reporting over 60,000 COVID-19 infections in the last seven days, the highest in the country.

Texas, which accounts for 10% of total US cases, is the hardest-hit state and became the first to surpass a million coronavirus cases. According to the Reuters analysis, the South region comprises nearly 43% of all the cases, followed by the Midwest, West and Northeast. New York, with over 33,000 fatalities, remains the state with highest number of deaths and accounts for about 14% of total US deaths.

In The Guardian, Del Rio predicted the United States could see 200,000 cases a day by Thanksgiving, if Americans do not adopt social distancing and universal masking immediately.

There are other grim signs. Nursing homes house less than 1% of the population, but represent more than 40% of deaths.

At the same time, the appetite for further Covid-19 restrictions is almost nil, as weary Americans head into a fall holiday season traditionally marked by celebrations indoors with family and friends. “Thanksgiving is basically set up to be a chain reaction of super-spreader events across our country,” said Ranney.

At the same time, the economic recovery appears to be faltering as businesses run out of pandemic relief aid and the virus spreads widely. Economist Chris Rupkey told Reuters the slowing recovery appeared to show, “a second wave of layoffs is hitting the economy, perhaps due to the rising count of virus cases”. At the same time, some businesses may have never been able to fully reopen “and [are] facing bankruptcy”.

 

Full The Guardian report

 

Full Reuters report

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