Pandemic in Perspective: COVID-19 Cases Continue to Rise
History will mark 2020 as the year the novel coronavirus spread across the world, leaving death and economic disruption in its wake. And while virtually every country in the world has dealt with the pandemic head-on, few will ultimately suffer the consequences that the United States faces. After a slow response to the pandemic and minimal guidance and support from the federal government, the U.S. is seeing a marked increase in cases and deaths while most of the world has tamped down on the virus.
How COVID-19 continues to spread across the nation
Heading into the end of summer, experts are referring to the nation’s upswing in coronavirus cases as the “second wave.” Although this describes the upward trajectory of cases for the second time since the virus was first discovered in the U.S., it is somewhat misleading. The “first wave” of the virus never truly ended, and the U.S. has yet to get the outbreak under control.
As of the end of July 2020, 4,515,787 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the United States. Although the majority have recovered, 152,729 have sadly passed away after contracting the virus. These numbers continue to climb after what appeared to be a promising decrease in new cases.
After initial cases of the virus were discovered in late January and early February, the government issued a travel alert between the U.S. and China. Unfortunately, the virus was already beginning to spread uncontrollably, and reliable testing was in its infancy. By mid-March, coronavirus was declared a pandemic and a national emergency in the U.S.
California issued the country’s first stay-at-home order, followed by numerous states across the nation. Non-essential businesses were closed, which caused a widespread economic shutdown and a wave of uncertainty as case numbers continued to climb. By mid-June, the U.S.’s confirmed case count reached 2 million; however, states began to reopen and ease social distancing requirements.
Since then, states have continued to reopen and now, the nation faces a steadily climbing number of new cases.
Why are we on the upswing?
There are a number of potential reasons the U.S. has failed to get the coronavirus pandemic under control like other countries around the world. One of the major challenges has been widespread misinformation. As researchers continue to learn about this new virus, confusion has taken root, leading to myths and outdated information about limiting the spread.
A lack of federal guidance and support have played a role as well. The economic fallout from the multi-month shutdown left millions of people unemployed. This, combined with conflicting information about the virus’s severity, has led states to reopen too early, resulting in a surge of viral spread. Adjacent states also have drastically different protocols, threatening to spread the virus across state lines.
Additionally, a widespread reluctance to observe social distancing or to wear a mask has emerged. Major retailers across the nation have begun mandating masks for shoppers, but the concept has been a point of contention on the local, state, and federal levels.
These challenges combined have paved the path for rapid COVID-19 spread, particularly in states like Florida, California, and Texas. Fortunately, some states like New York have succeeded in limiting new cases due to proper guidance.
Where do we go from here?
Without significant intervention from government bodies on all levels, the U.S.’s coronavirus outlook is bleak. Case numbers continue to climb, and hospitals are quickly becoming overwhelmed again. Federal officials are pushing for schools to reopen this fall without a virus containment strategy in place, and flu season is right around the corner.
Real, radical change needs to happen to contain the spread of the virus, or the nation could face the disastrous effects of an unchecked pandemic that still has no vaccine, effective treatment, or cure.