“We’ll easily get to six-digit numbers in terms of the number of cases,” Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told CNN Friday night. And deaths will rise dramatically in the next three to four weeks, usually about two to three weeks after new cases.
Officials said over the weekend that social gatherings and family events moving indoors to avoid the cold weather are largely responsible for the high prevalence.
34 countries have reported an increase in the number of cases
At least 35 states reported more new Covid-19 cases in the past week compared to the previous week, according to Johns Hopkins data.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy on Saturday reported 1,994 cases of coronavirus – the highest in a single day since May.
“We’re still in the midst of a pandemic and we need everyone to take it seriously. Wear a mask. Social distancing,” Murphy wrote on Twitter.
New Jersey recorded eight new deaths linked to the virus, bringing the state’s total number of deaths to 14,492.
“This virus has not gone away simply because we are tired of it,” Murphy said.
In Florida, health officials on Saturday reported 4,471 additional cases and 77 new deaths among residents. It is the third day of this month that the state reported more than 4,000 new cases in a single day, according to a tally by CNN. The Florida Department of Health said the total number of Covid-19 cases has reached 776,251 and 16,417 residents of the state have died. There were 203 deaths among non-residents.
Pennsylvania reported 2,043 new cases on Saturday.
“The daily increases are now comparable to what we saw in April 2020,” the state health department said in a statement. Another 29 virus-related deaths were reported on Saturday.
Michigan, which recorded 3,338 new cases on Saturday, recorded its highest total in a single day during the pandemic, according to State Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Lynn Sutvin. The state also reported 35 new deaths.
Dr. Johnny Khaldoun, chief medical officer and vice president of health in Michigan, said the data showed “alarming increases” in new infections.
“If rates continue like this, we risk flooding our hospitals and the death of many Michigan residents,” Khaldoun said in a statement.
On Saturday, Illinois reported 6,161 new cases, the highest number since the pandemic began. More than 4,000 new cases were reported in the state for six of the past nine days, according to Department of Health data. There were 63 new deaths.
Illinois Director of Public Health Dr. Ngozi Iziki made an emotional appeal to residents about the importance of face coverings.
“Due to the high numbers in hospitals, people are bringing more beds, trying to prepare for the Covid units again. And those employees who have suffered all this pain in an attempt to save as many people as possible are seeing history repeat itself,” she said. “We don’t have a vaccine yet, but we do have a mask, and we’re asking people to use it, and I don’t know what else we can say.”
Colorado officials issued a new order limiting gatherings to 10 people from more than two families in response to the climbing infection and hospitalization.
“We need to keep gatherings smaller and with people from fewer families – we’re asking everyone to ‘shrink their bubble’ to reduce the spread,” Jill Hounsaker Ryan, executive director of the Colorado Department of Health and Environment, said in a press release on Friday.
‘This is not a drill’
Despite worrying trends, health officials maintain essential public health measures that can help turn things around: masks, social distancing, avoidance of crowd and frequent handwashing.
“It looks very simple, but we’re not doing it uniformly, and that’s one of the reasons we’re seeing these increases,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci on Friday. We can control them without locking down the country. “
“I think it would be a great idea for everyone to do it together,” he said. “If people don’t wear masks, maybe we should delegate them,” he said.
On Friday, a senior WHO official urged country leaders to “take immediate measures to prevent more unnecessary deaths, the collapse of basic health services and the closing of schools again.”
“As I said in February and I repeat it today, this is not training,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press conference.
Expert: The vaccine may not come this year
While many experts and officials have worked to provide hopeful estimates of when Covid-19 will become available, this timeline remains uncertain.
NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins said Friday that while “cautiously optimistic” that the United States will have a vaccine by the end of the year, he said it “may not happen and it may take longer.”
But Collins added that it is good that the United States has more than one candidate vaccine in development.
He said, “If you were betting everything on one vaccine, I would be more concerned.”
And when a vaccine is approved, experts said it is critical that enough Americans have it. Collins warned that if only half of the country was ready for vaccination, the Covid-19 virus could last for years.
“When I look at the attitudes that are out there right now about this vaccine, about who’s going to be interested in taking it – it’s really upsetting,” Collins said at a hypothetical event for the National Press Club. “I’ve been talking very optimistic about how we’re likely to get a vaccine by the end of the year, but if only 50% of Americans are interested in taking it, we will never reach the point of immunity for the population to which Covid-19 is transmitted.
CNN’s Alta Spells, Alec Snyder, Melissa Alonso, Brad Parks, Hollie Silverman, Ganesh Setty, Shelby Lin Erdman, Gisela Crespo, Naomi Thomas and Jacqueline Howard contributed to this report.