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As more than 150,000 people test positive for Covid-19 in the US nearly every day, the country is now collectively holding its breath as it awaits the consequences of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend to reflect in Covid-19 cases numbers.
Currently, the 7-day average for daily new cases in the US is hovering just above 150,000, having gone slightly down after reaching a peak of 172,000 on 25 November, the day before Thanksgiving. Case numbers began to climb in mid-October and began to soar in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. The country breached 100,000; 150,000 and, eventually, 200,000 daily new cases for the first time in November.
While the average for new cases has seemed to plateau since the middle of November, public health experts warn that an uptick in cases is likely imminent after Thanksgiving as millions of people ignored pleas to stay home and avoid mixed family or social gatherings.
The Transportation Security Administration reported that 1.17 million people were screened at security checkpoints at airports on Sunday – the highest since the start of the pandemic. In comparison, about 2.8 million people were screened on the same Sunday in 2019.
In an interview with NBC on Sunday, Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, outlined what the increase in traveling and gathering could mean for case numbers.
“What we expect, unfortunately, as we go for the next couple of weeks into December, is that we might see a surge superimposed on the surge we are already in,” Fauci said.
Ellie Murray, an epidemiologist at Boston University, said that while many people across the country took precautions, many others were probably exposed to the virus during the holiday.
“What everyone’s expecting is this week and next week, those cases from Thanksgiving will start to be reported,” Murray said. “Any hospitalizations that will result from that will be seen around mid-December, and then we’ll start to see people dying from the Covid they acquired around Thanksgiving by Christmas, the end of December.”
The nature of Covid-19’s incubation period means that it could take up to two weeks to fully realize how much spread occurred over Thanksgiving. That delay coupled with the short timeframe between Thanksgiving and Christmas, with New Year’s followed closely after, could mean that people may not realize the danger that gathering on Thanksgiving posed.
“People may think if Thanksgiving didn’t change how much spread there was, I’m safe to do Christmas. That’s almost certainly the wrong thing to think, but it may be really hard to convince people based on the data just because of the short time between Thanksgiving and Christmas,” Murray said.
Many hospitals around the country are already quickly running out of room as they deal with Covid-19 hospitalizations that bred from the uptick in cases. The number of people hospitalized with Covid-19 has been steadily climbing since the end of October.
On 30 November, 96,039 people were currently hospitalized with the virus – the highest since the start of the pandemic, according to the Covid Tracking Project. The number of Covid-related deaths per day, increases of which tend to follow upticks in hospitalizations, often surpass 1,000 a day. Total deaths in the US is close to 270,000.
Over the course of the pandemic, previous surges of the virus were concentrated in specific regions, with the north-east being hit the hardest in the spring, the Sun Belt seeing an influx of cases over the summer and the midwest seeing spikes in the fall.
But as the US heads into winter, Covid-19 is no longer concentrated in a single region. States in every region are considered “red zones”, where positivity rates are above 10%. Only seven states have a positivity rate below 5%, according to Johns Hopkins University, with the rate increasing in the vast majority of states.
With the power of managing the virus resting mainly on state and local leaders, some officials have started to implement or threaten tighter restrictions as cases increase.
Gina Raimondo, the governor of Rhode Island, issued a two-week stay-at-home order that started on Monday. Some recreational businesses, including bowling alleys and theaters, and bars will be forced to close during the two-week period. The state has opened two field hospitals that have 900 beds combined as hospitals in the state have reached their Covid-19 capacity.
New York’s governor Andrew Cuomo said that tougher Covid-19 restrictions could be around the corner as the number of people hospitalized with the virus in the state have risen. “We could potentially do a New York PAUSE,” he said, referring to the shutdown the state went under in March when all but essential businesses were closed.
Gavin Newsom, California’s governor, also said he was considering similar strict measures in counties where hospitals are becoming overwhelmed.
Murray emphasized that if those who traveled and gathered during Thanksgiving stayed home, and if people took cautious measures leading up to Christmas and New Years, then the feared uptick of cases could be mitigated.
“It’s not inevitable that things are going to go badly. Whatever Thanksgiving did to our spread has already happened, so that increase has happened,” Murray said. “We can see this horrible future coming, but there are ways to avoid it.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: US braces for Covid surge in the aftermath of the Thanksgiving holiday | Coronavirus