By Ciara Linnane, MarketWatch
The number of U.S. cases of the coronavirus illness COVID-19 climbed above 3.9 million on Wednesday, a day after President Donald Trump finally encouraged Americans to wear face masks in public, marking a break with his approach to the pandemic thus far.
In his first briefing on the crisis in three months, alone and without any of the health care experts on the White House Task Force created to manage the pandemic, Trump acknowledged that the pandemic “will probably, unfortunately, get worse before it gets better,” conceding that the deadly illness is not a hoax and will not just disappear, as he has claimed in the past.
His comments came on a day when the U.S. counted more than 65,000 new infections, and more than 1,000 deaths, bumping the death toll to 142,080, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University. Florida, Arizona and Texas reported record numbers of deaths from the virus for a single day on Tuesday, according to the Washington Post.
True COVID-19 rates were more than 10 times higher than reported cases in most U.S. regions from late March to early May, the study found, based on COVID-19 antibody tests performed on routine blood samples in 16,000 people in 10 U.S. regions. Many people had no symptoms or only mild ones and did not know they were infected and spreading the virus.
Hospitals in states in the South and West, including Texas are now running out of intensive-care unit beds, according to local media. There are 42 states and territories showing rising cases over the past 14 days, according to a New York Times tracker.
A Harvard Global Health Institute tracker is flashing red for 11 states, which researchers say is a sign they need to shut down again.
Ashish Jha, head of the Harvard Global Health Institute, welcomed Trump’s new enthusiasm for masks and respect for the virus, but said on Twitter that the rest of the briefing contained distractions and misinformation.
In an interview with MSNBC, Jha said the U.S. is hitting a wall on testing.
“We have expanded testing quite a bit since March, and that’s good news,” he said. “But clearly there are two sets of issues: One is we don’t have enough testing for the level of outbreak we have, and, second, the testing we do have, or system wasn’t really designed to deliver on, and so what’s happening, as you’ve heard, is there are 10-day, two-week turnaround times. If it’s taking two weeks for the test results to come back, it’s pretty close to useless at this point, so we need a whole new strategy on testing.”
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said Trump’s new position on masks is about three months too late: “If he had said months ago, let’s wear masks and let’s not — let’s socially distance instead of rallies and whatever they were, then more people would have followed his lead,” Pelosi said in an interview on CNN . “He’s the president of the United States. Instead of being a bad example, like (making it) a manhood thing not to wear a mask.”
A group of health care experts will deliver an open letter to America’s leaders later Wednesday, arguing that it’s time to shut down, start over and do it right this time. The letter was signed by Ezekiel J. Emanuel, MD, Ph.D.-University of Pennsylvania, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s William Hanage, Ph.D., Northwestern University’s Seth Trueger, MD, MPH and Yale School of Medicine’s Reshma Ramachandran, MD, MPP, among others.
“Right now we are on a path to lose more than 200,000 American lives by November 1st,” said Matt Wellington, U.S. PIRG’s (Public Interest Research Groups) Public Health Campaigns Director. “Yet, in many states people can drink in bars, get a haircut, eat inside a restaurant, get a tattoo, get a massage, and do myriad other normal, pleasant, but nonessential activities.”
U.S. PIRG is planning to deliver the letter to a set of governors, leadership in Congress and the Trump administration.
Trump Urges Americans to Wear a Mask
In his first White House coronavirus briefing since April, President Trump appeared to reverse his stance on masks, saying, “Whether you like the mask or not, they have an impact, they’ll have an effect.” Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
There are now 14.9 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide and at least 617,415 people have died, the Johns Hopkins data shows. At least 8.5 million people have recovered.
Brazil is second to the U.S. with 2.16 million cases and 81,487 deaths.
India is third measured by cases at 1.2 million, followed by Russia with 787,846 and South Africa with 381,798.
The U.K. has 297,391 cases and 45,507 fatalities, the highest in Europe and third highest in the world. China, where the illness was first reported late last year, has 85,314 cases and 4,644 fatalities.
Some countries are seeing renewed surges in cases after ending restrictions on movement, including Belgium, according to Agence France-Presse . Belgium had one of Europe’s worst per capita tolls earlier this year, but was able to bring it under control using lockdown measures.
In Japan, the governor of Tokyo has urged residents to stay at home during a coming four-day holiday weekend, after it hit a new daily record of 293 cases last week, AFP reported.
Japan has had just over 26,300 cases and close to 1,000 deaths, a low figure compared with countries worst hit by the pandemic, but Japanese experts say the number of patients in serious condition is gradually increasing.
Australia counted another record of 502 new coronavirus infections, mostly in the southeastern state of Victoria. Officials are working to contain an outbreak in Melbourne, which has been under lockdown for the last two weeks.
What’s the latest medical news?
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