At the debate in Nashville on Thursday evening, Donald Trump once again insisted that the nation had turned the corner on coronavirus, and that COVID-19 was going to "go away." But if any corner has been turned, it's the one leading to Disaster Street. Because as Trump was speaking, the last states were reporting in—bringing with them what could be a single-day record for new cases.
According to NBC News, Thursday's tally was 77,640 positive test results. That breaks their previous day record of 75,723 set back on June 29. The number comes as part of a "third surge" of cases in the U.S. However, unlike the peaks that were reached in April and July, this rise isn't driven by a wave of cases in a single region. Instead, COVID-19 cases are rising sharply in a number of regions.
These massive numbers also came in spite of chronic undertesting. There were 15 states on Thursday with a rate of positive test over ten percent. Three states—Wyoming, Idaho, and South Dakota—had tests results that were over 30 percent positive. In forest fire terms, these are conflagrations burning out of control, with barely a token effort to contain them.
Earlier I predicted that based on the pattern of past weeks, Friday would bring a record day for new cases of COVID-19. I was wrong. Because by the time all the numbers were assembled, we actually topped the old record on Thursday. Though on Friday … we'll probably break it again.
Of course, NBC's COVID-19 tracking site is just one of several, and numbers vary between sites. Some of that is simply the times that data comes in. Late-arriving state data included in NBC's total did not get included at WorldOMeters, which set Thursday's total at 74,301. And even fewer made it in before the deadline at Johns Hopkins, which set the number at 71,671. The Johns Hopkins site also doesn't immediately include some numbers for COVID-19 cases and deaths that have been diagnosed by symptom, until they are conclusively proven through testing.
Those daily variations mean that the totals, and even the dates, of past peaks vary. While NBC set their past maximum at 75,723 on June 29, WorldOMeters had the biggest single day almost a month later, with 78,976 cases on July 24. Johns Hopkins set their number at 77,382 a day later. So, according to WorldOMeters and Johns Hopkins, those old records still stand … for a moment. Because it's highly likely that Friday's values will set a new record at all three sites.
As Trump stood on the stage Thursday night and insisted that more of the nation needed to go back to normal and that COVID-19 was going to go away, the nation is burning. Cases aren't just continuing to rise, it's unclear where they will peak, or when they will go down again. Because this surge of cases is so broadly based, decisions by a handful of state governments are unlikely to make much impact on the overall numbers. The nation badly needs national leadership, but it's not going to get it. Not from Trump.
It's also worth mentioning on Friday that Europe's attempts to reopen safely are ending in what seems to be definitive failure. Even nations that managed to bring daily cases down to a very low level through strictly enforced social distancing, have found that they were incapable of sustaining a prolonged period of lax regulation. Cases are skyrocketing in the U.K., France, and Spain. Italy saw 16,000 cases on Thursday—three times the values in the nation's horrendous spring. Countries that celebrated a victory over the disease and spent much of the summer trying to salvage a tourist season, are now heading toward a second round of tough actions necessary to contain the disease.
But at least they may get those actions.
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