The U.S. is in a “very critical time” as COVID-19 cases surge nationwide and in several states in particular, said Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, on Wednesday. “Unfortunately, we’re experiencing substantial surge across the nation,” said Redfield during an online Q&A with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, noting that a significant number of states are in the “red zone” for new infections. Read on for his full warning, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had Coronavirus.
“A very critical time” for states and healthcare resources
Just as coronavirus cases in the Northern Plains have leveled off after spiking in late fall, Redfield said the pandemic is resurging in:
- The Mid-Atlantic states (Maryland, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, along with the parts of New Jersey, New York, and North Carolina)
- The Sun Belt (which technically includes Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas)
- and Redfield specifically singled out California, Oregon, and Washington state.
“We really have an extensive pandemic now throughout the nation,” he said. A million cases of COVID-19 were reported in the U.S. each week through November. So far this month, several states have set records for new cases and hospitalizations. Nationwide, the daily death rate has begun to approach the peak set back in April.
“In the spring, we were talking about 20,000 to 30,000 people in the hospital,” said Redfield. “Now we’re over 90,000 people in the hospital.”
“We are at a very critical time right now about being able to maintain the resilience of our healthcare system,” he added.
Three potential vaccines have proven to be effective in late-stage trials, and the FDA may approve the first for emergency use within days, allowing vaccinations to begin in high-risk groups like nursing-home residents and healthcare providers before the end of the month. But 75 to 80 percent of Americans will need to be vaccinated before widespread immunity is achieved, and experts say that won’t be possible until the middle of 2021.
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“Rough times” ahead; here’s how to stay alive
“The reality is December and January and February are going to be rough times,” said Redfield. “I actually believe they’re going to be the most difficult time in the public health history of this nation, largely because of the stress that’s going to put on our healthcare system.”
Redfield urged all Americans to follow public-health recommendations, including social distancing, avoiding crowds, gathering outdoors more than indoors, and universal mask-wearing. He cited a Kansas study which found that counties with mask mandates experienced a six percent decline in COVID-19 cases, while counties that didn’t require face masks saw a 100 percent increase. “This virus really is going to require all of us to really be vigilant about wearing a mask,” he said.
So do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19 in the first place: Wear a face mask, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.