Over the past three weeks, the US has averaged more than 1,000 Covid-19 deaths per day.
“Covid is now the No. 3 cause of death in the US — ahead of accidents, injuries, lung disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and many, many other causes,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Heart disease and cancer are the leading causes of death in the US, according to the CDC.
The rate of deaths from Covid-19 is also much greater in the US than in many other countries, Frieden said.
“Last week, Americans were eight times more likely to get killed by Covid than were Europeans,” he said.
Less testing = more infected people walking around
Just as more students head back to school, health experts are worried about a disturbing trend: decreasing testing combined with high test positivity rates.
In other words, Covid-19 is still spreading rampantly, but there’s less testing to find and isolate cases.
Fifteen states conducted fewer tests this past week compared to the previous week: Mississippi, Louisiana, North Carolina, Washington state, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Idaho, Montana and Alaska.
“The testing situation is not good in the United States. What we’re not picking up is people who are contagious,” said Dr. William Haseltine, chairman and president of ACCESS Health International.
“We’re probably missing 8 out of 10 people who are contagious. And any decrease in testing is worrisome because we’re not already doing well. And if you don’t pick people out of a crowd who are contagious, then the epidemic spreads. … This epidemic is still spreading widely.”
Why are some states testing less?
Medical experts say there could be several reasons.
“One of the reasons that testing is decreasing is that supplies aren’t being shipped to places that can test. I think it’s part of a strategy not to count how many people are infected,” Haseltine said.
Florida governor touts success
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said the state has seen six consecutive weeks of decline in test positivity rates.
And the number of patients hospitalized with coronavirus has declined by nearly 40% since peaking July 22, he added. The number of ICU patients is down 30% since July 18.
DeSantis said he thinks the downward trends across the state are durable. “We’re going to continue to work hard to be able to see these good trends.”
One of the measures the state took to blunt the number of cases was closing bars in late June.
Halsey Beshears, Florida’s top business regulator, is reviewing feedback and ideas from his meetings with bar and brewery owners from across the state, but no timeline for the reopening of bars has been set, according to Karen Smith, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
“While no timeframe for reopening is certain, Secretary Beshears understands the urgency advocated by business owners in these recent meetings,” Smith said.
Shortage of minority volunteers could delay vaccines
That’s not nearly enough, as trial participants are supposed to reflect the population that’s affected. Research shows more than half of US Covid-19 cases have been among Black and Latino people.
In the 1800s, Dr. J. Marion Sims experimented on slaves and performed surgeries without their consent and without anesthesia.
So far, phases 1 and 2 have shown the vaccine to be safe. Some volunteers experienced fever and muscle aches, but they felt better after a day or two.
A fast, inexpensive test just got emergency approval
There is some good news: A new saliva test could give Americans a quick way of learning if they have Covid-19 — and if they need to isolate to help prevent the spread.
“If cheap alternatives like SalivaDirect can be implemented across the country, we may finally get a handle on this pandemic, even before a vaccine,” said Nathan Grubaugh, a Yale assistant professor of epidemiology.
“We simplified the test so that it only costs a couple of dollars for reagents, and we expect that labs will only charge about $10 per sample,” Grubaugh said.
‘We’ve got to break through to our young people’
“Recent evidence suggests that children likely have the same or higher viral loads in their nasopharynx compared with adults and that children can spread the virus effectively in households and camp settings,” the CDC said.
Outbreaks have also emerged at colleges and universities.
Oklahoma State University said Sunday that at least 23 sorority members in an off-campus house tested positive for the virus. The entire house is in isolation or quarantine and “will be prohibited from leaving the facility,” the university said.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services defines a cluster as five or more cases in proximity. As of Monday morning, 177 students are in isolation and 349 are in quarantine, both on and off campus. About 30,000 students attend the university.
The school has shifted to online learning for now.
CNN’s Denise Royal, Rosa Flores, Jamiel Lynch, Steve Almasy, Elizabeth Cohen, Dana Vigue, Madeline Holcombe, Lauren Mascarenhas, Carma Hassan and Chandler Thornton contributed to this report.