For the past few weeks in the United States, the awful logic of the coronavirus seemed to have lifted. Stores and restaurants reopened. Protesters flocked to the streets. Some people resumed going about their daily lives, and while many wore face masks, many others did not.
Yet cases continued to ebb. Even though the U.S. had adopted neither the stringent lockdowns nor the trace-and-isolate strategies seen in other countries, its number of confirmed COVID-19 cases settled into a slow decline. Last week, Vice President Mike Pence bragged that the country had made “great progress” against the disease, highlighting that the average number of new cases each day had dropped to 25,000 in May, and 20,000 so far in June.
That holiday has now ended. Yesterday, the U.S. reported 38,672 new cases of the coronavirus, the highest daily total so far. Ignore any attempt to explain away what is happening: The American coronavirus pandemic is once again at risk of spinning out of control. A new and brutal stage now menaces the Sun Belt states, whose residents face a nearly unbroken chain of outbreaks stretching from South Carolina to California. Across the South and large parts of the West, cases are soaring, hospitalizations are spiking, and a greater portion of tests are coming back positive.
The country’s second surge has arrived—and it is hammering states, such as Texas and Arizona, that escaped the first surge mostly unscathed.
This new surge is large enough to shift the entire country’s top-line statistics. In terms of new confirmed cases, three of the 10 worst days of the U.S. pandemic so far have come since Friday, according to data collected by the COVID Tracking Project at The Atlantic. The seven-day average of new cases has now risen to levels last seen 11 weeks ago, during the worst of the outbreak in New York. The U.S. has seen more cases in the past week than in any week since the pandemic began. [Continue reading…]