Coronavirus cases worldwide have climbed to record highs of more than 330,000 a day as the plague returns to Europe and spreads rapidly in the United States, forcing many places to impose strict restrictions eased months ago.
Well, after Europe seems to have largely tamed the virus, which turned out to be so deadly last spring, newly confirmed infections are reaching unprecedented levels in Germany, the Czech Republic, Italy and Poland. Most of the rest of the continent see similar signs of danger.
France has announced a curfew at 9pm in Paris and other major cities. Londoners face new restrictions on meeting people indoors. The Netherlands closed bars and restaurants this week. The Czech Republic and Northern Ireland are closing schools. Poland has limited restaurant hours and closed gyms and swimming pools.
In the United States, new cases are increasing daily in 44 states, with many of the biggest jumps being in the Midwest and Great Plains, where resistance to masks and other precautions is increasing and the virus is often seen as just a major urban problem. Deaths a day are rising in 30 states.
“I see this as one of the most difficult times in the epidemic,” said Dr. Peter Hottes, an infectious disease specialist at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas. “The numbers are rising pretty fast. We will see a fairly large epidemic in the Northern Hemisphere. “
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert, said Americans should think carefully about holding Thanksgiving gatherings.
“Everyone has this traditional, emotional, warm feeling about the holidays and gathering a group of people, friends and family indoors,” he told ABC’s Good Morning America. “We really need to be careful this time that each individual family evaluates the risks and benefits of this.”
Responses to the wave vary in severely affected countries.
In North Dakota, Republican Gov. Doug Burgham raised the risk of coronavirus in 16 counties this week, but did not issue mandatory restrictions. In Wisconsin, a judge temporarily blocked an order from Democratic Gov. Tony Evers that would limit the number of people in bars and restaurants.
South Dakota on Wednesday broke its record for hospitalizations and new cases of COVID-19 and had more deaths from the disease in less than half in October than in any other full month. Despite the grim figures, GOP Governor Christy Noem resisted pressure to step up the state’s response to the disease.
Wisconsin reached a new daily high for confirmed infections for the second time this week. In Missouri, the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 reached nearly 1,450, which is another record.
Dr. Mark Larsen, who oversees the response to COVID-19 in the Kansas City-based health care system, said rural hospitals in the system are seeing as bad jumps as in Kansas City.
“At the beginning of this pandemic, it was felt that this was a problem of the big city, and now it extends to rural communities, where I think there was not so much emphasis on disguise and distancing,” he said.
New cases in the United States have increased in the past two weeks from about 40,000 a day on average to more than 52,000, according to Johns Hopkins University. (Cases peaked in the United States in the summer at nearly 70,000 per day.) Deaths have been relatively stable over the past two weeks, at about 720 per day. That’s well below the US peak of more than 2,200 dead a day in late April.
Worldwide deaths have fallen slightly in recent weeks to about 5,200 a day from a peak of about 7,000 in April.
Dr Hans Kluge, head of the World Health Organization’s European office, called on governments to be “uncompromising” in controlling the virus. He said most of the spread happens because people don’t follow safety rules.
European financial markets fell sharply on Thursday amid fears that new restrictions would undermine the continent’s economic recovery. Shares of Wall Street fell slightly.
In France, which reported more than 22,000 new infections on Wednesday, President Emmanuel Macron has put 18 million people in nine regions, including Paris, under curfew since Saturday. The country will deploy 12,000 police officers to enforce it.
Italy set a one-day record for infections and reported the highest daily death toll from this second wave, adding 83 casualties to nearly 36,400, the second highest in Europe after Britain.
In the UK, London and seven other areas face restrictions, which will mean that more than 11 million people will be banned from meeting people indoors outside their households and asked to minimize travel this weekend.
European countries have seen nearly 230,000 confirmed deaths from the virus, while the United States has registered more than 217,000, although experts agree that official figures underestimate the real victims.
So far, new deaths have not increased at the same rate as infections.
First, it can take time for people to get sick and die from the virus. Also, many of the new cases involve young people who are less likely than older people to become seriously ill. Patients benefit from new drugs and other improvements in the treatment of COVID-19. And old people’s homes, which were devastated by the virus last spring, have improved in infection control.
But experts fear it is only a matter of time before deaths increase in line with infections.
“All of this does not bode well,” said Josh Misho, associate director of global health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation in Washington. “The rapid increase in cases we are seeing now is always followed by an increase in hospitalizations and deaths, which is likely to happen in much of Europe and the United States in the coming weeks and months.”
Areas affected by the new tide include Gove County, Kansas, where the sheriff, emergency management director, chief executive of the local hospital and more than 50 medical staff members are positive.
Dr Doug Gruenbacher, a doctor who contracted the virus in September, said people around Gove County were concerned about their personal freedom and “did not want to be told what to do”.
“That’s part of the reason we love him here, because of this spirit and because of this independence,” he said. “But unfortunately, this is something that also contributes to some of the difficulties we have at the moment.”
Associated Press authors from Europe and the United States contributed to this report.
Follow the AP pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
David Curry, Carla K. Johnson and Gere Moulson, Associated Press