US daily coronavirus deaths surpass 1,000 for first time since June

By Lauren Aratani

Daily deaths due to Covid-19 on Tuesday surpassed 1,000 for the first time in the US since the start of June, as Donald Trump admitted the crisis would “get worse” before it got better.

The seven-day average for the number of deaths in the country has been slowly rising this month, according to multiple data analyses, and went past the 1,000 mark on Tuesday, taking US fatalities to more than 142,000. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has forecasted that the country will reach 150,000 deaths by early August.

The peak number of people hospitalized at once was 59,000 on Tuesday, according to the Covid Tracking Project, reaching numbers that were last seen in April when the virus was spreading rapidly in the US north-east.

At the White House’s renewed coronavirus daily press briefing late on Tuesday, the president said that the virus “will probably unfortunately get worse before it gets better”, an admission in line with what public health experts have been saying for months. Trump still praised the US response to the pandemic, saying it has been “better than most”.

Trump also acknowledged in his prepared remarks that “whether you like the mask or not, they have an impact”. But when taking a question from a reporter, Trump took a softer stance, saying “in theory, you don’t need the mask” but implied he was getting more comfortable wearing them.

While Trump took an unusually sober tone during the press briefing, which are slated to continue daily, Dr Anthony Fauci, America’s top infectious diseases expert told CNN he was not invited to the briefing. Fauci was once a praised fixture of the daily briefings but has recently been under attack by Trump and his allies, seemingly for taking the president’s spotlight.

Public health experts such as Fauci have warned for weeks that the US will see the consequences of ending shutdown orders too soon. As states along the south saw surges in new infections, experts said those states will ultimately see an uptick in deaths.

That fear is becoming a reality as deaths in those states reached almost record highs on Tuesday. Texas saw 131 deaths while Florida and Arizona both saw 134 deaths – the second-highest numbers yet seen for the states. Public health officials said that ICU beds in those states are nearly at capacity with a surge in hospitalizations amid the spikes.

Broward health hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Some counties in the state have run out of ICU beds.
Broward health hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Some counties in the state have run out of ICU beds. Photograph: Larry Marano/Rex/Shutterstock

The capacity of Florida hospitals has been particularly alarming. Some counties have completely run out of intensive care unit beds because of the influx of Covid-19 patients. The state’s daily infection rate has hovered around 10,000 over the past two weeks with the number of deaths reaching past 100 on some days over the last two weeks.

Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, has been criticized for his handling of the virus in the state. The governor has repeatedly refused to implement a mask mandate and is being sued by the state’s teachers union for plowing forward with plans to reopen all schools for in-person learning in August. DeSantis said on Tuesday that despite the alarming numbers, the state is “turning this thing back in a good direction”.

On the opposite end of the Gulf coast, Greg Abbott, the Texas governor, has issued a mask mandate and paused the state’s reopening phases earlier this month. Hospitalizations in the state have seen small drops, though the state is still seeing a high number of new cases. Daily increases in the state peaked at 14,900 on 17 July and have ranged between 7,000 and 10,000 new cases a day since.

California‘s confirmed coronavirus cases have topped 409,000, surpassing New York for most in the nation, according to data from Johns Hopkins University showing on Wednesday that California now has about 1,200 more cases than New York.

However, New York’s 32,520 deaths are by far the highest total in the country and four times more than California‘s tally, and its rate of confirmed infections of about 2,100 per 100,000 people is twice California‘s rate.

California is the most populous US state, with nearly 40 million people, while New York has about 19.5 million.

In other developments on Wednesday, it was announced that the Trump administration will pay Pfizer nearly $2bn for a December delivery of 100m doses of a Covid-19 vaccine the pharmaceutical company is developing.

The health and human services secretary, Alex Azar, announced the agreement and said the US could buy another 500m doses under the agreement.

“Now those would, of course, have to be safe and effective” and approved by the Food and Drug Administration, Azar said during an appearance on Fox News.

Numerous potential vaccines are under development in the US and around the world.