Here we go again. Seven months into the coronavirus pandemic, Covid-19 numbers are going in the wrong direction in 29 of 50 states.
Despite President Trump saying repeatedly that Covid-19 is “going away,” the data shows that the virus is not going anywhere.
The U.S. is seeing widespread increases in Covid-19 cases at the same level the country was at just after the July 4th holiday weekend, prior to the big summer surge. This has public health experts concerned that the country is heading for a third spike.
“We have a baseline of infections that vary between 40 and 50 thousand per day,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, told CNBC’s Shepard Smith yesterday. “That’s a bad place to be when you’re going into the cooler weather of the fall and the colder weather of the winter.”
Meanwhile, domestic air travel has been ticking up, too. Last month, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screened more than 900,000 passengers on just two days, both during Labor Day weekend, according to the agency’s throughput data. The TSA has already hit that milestone on four days in October, and the month isn’t even half over.
For Americans trying to figure out whether it’s safe to take an upcoming business or leisure trip during the latest surge, several excellent tools can help make sense of the trends.
If your travel dates are imminent, turn to the Covid-19 risk-assessment map run by Harvard Global Health Institute and Brown School of Public Health. The color-coded map provides an easy way for Americans to assess how quickly the disease is spreading in a state or county. Each community has a rating of green, yellow, orange or red, based upon the number of new daily cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 people over a seven-day rolling average.
With coronavirus hot spots sprawling across the Midwest and Mountain West, nearly one in three states is now colored red, meaning the community is “at a tipping point” for Covid-19 infections. The number of high-risk states has jumped from four to 13 in the past month.
If your trip is still a week or more away, there is a better metric to look at. According to Dr. Fauci, the best predictor of the next hot spot is a rising positivity rate. You can consult Johns Hopkins University’s Covid-19 tracking map to find out which states are most likely to turn into hot spots.
Right now, a whopping 25 states — exactly half the country — have reported rising positivity rates for two consecutive weeks.
“The higher the percent positive is, the more concerning it is,” according to Johns Hopkins’ explainer. “As a rule of thumb, however, one threshold for the percent positive being ‘too high’ is 5%.” Currently, a mindblowing 31 states are above the 5% threshold.
In Idaho, 22.9% of tests came back positive for COVID-19 last week, the highest positivity rate in the country. South Dakota and Wisconsin also reported “percent positive” rates above 20% last week.
When it comes to managing the coronavirus pandemic, the United States has fared worse than nearly every other country in the world. To date, over 7.8 million Americans have become infected with the novel coronavirus and 215,000 have died.
A well-regarded model by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington is currently projecting that the U.S. will hit 394,000 Covid-19 deaths by February 1, 2021. The model predicts that the death rate will rise throughout the fall and winter until it peaks at 2,300 per day in mid-January, up from about 700 a day now.