New coronavirus cases in US highest since April, but deaths much lower

Is the U.S. heading back into dire straits with a resurgence of coronavirus cases, or is something else entirely going on?

The Hill reported Wednesday that the U.S. saw its largest number of new cases since April on Tuesday, with several southern states reporting record-high new case numbers after reopening in May.

An additional 34,700 cases were reported to Johns Hopkins University on Tuesday, a number not seen since April 24, nearly two months earlier. A full 23 states have seen spikes in cases as they have reopened, with Texas, Arizona, Florida and California seeing record-high case numbers on Tuesday.

Cases may be higher, but deaths still falling

Here’s the thing, though. Back on April 24, there were 1,962 deaths reported from the coronavirus, and the 7-day moving average was 2,111. On June 23, there were 863 deaths from the coronavirus and the 7-day average was 620.

So why are cases rising while deaths are less than a third of previous numbers? One reason for the difference is testing.

On April 24th, about 4.5 million coronavirus tests had been performed; by June 23, there had been more than 29 million. Even though the percentage of positive tests has gone from 17% then to 10% now, testing is still responsible for part of the rise in cases across the U.S.

Another reason why case numbers may be rising while deaths are falling is because younger people are now getting the disease. Reopening means millions of working-age people are now back at work in restaurants, retail stores, and beauty salons, among other businesses.

Higher new cases expected

Of course, some transmission will occur as people get out of their houses and back into the world, but these age groups are not at as much risk for hospitalizations and deaths as the older populations who were becoming infected at higher rates in March and April.

It is telling, for example, that the ratio of deaths to cases in Texas, Georgia, Florida and Arizona is far lower than Pennsylvania and other states that ordered elderly patients back into nursing homes while they still had the coronavirus.

There could be many other contributing factors to higher case rates as well, including recent protests (which testers are not allowed to ask about) as well as the fact that some states are counting multiple positive tests from the same person and antibody tests as distinct new cases when they are not anything of the sort.

It is imperative that leaders look at death rates when they consider whether to reinstate restrictions in states with rising cases. New treatments have made the virus less deadly than it was even just a month ago, which means that going back into shutdown mode will not save as many lives and will lead to even greater economic devastation.

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