the coronavirus crisis
12:34 p.m.

The U.S. coronavirus death toll could potentially surpass half a million by the end of February, but nearly 130,000 lives could be saved through universal mask use, a new study suggests.

The study published on Friday in Nature Medicine estimated that by Feb. 28, 2021, the COVID-19 death toll in the United States could reach 511,373, assuming states reinstate social distancing mandates upon reaching a threshold of eight deaths per million, The New York Times and USA Today report. If states continue to ease their social distancing mandates, the death toll could pass one million, the researchers said.

However, the study also projects that if 95 percent of Americans wore masks in public, this "could be sufficient to ameliorate the worst effects of epidemic resurgences in many states," and a total of 129,574 deaths could be prevented. If just 85 percent of Americans wore masks in public, 95,814 deaths could be prevented, the researchers also projected. The study was conducted by researchers from the University of Washington's School of Medicine.

Georgetown University infectious disease modeler Shweta Bansal, who wasn't involved with the study, noted to the Times that this is "not a prediction or forecast, because we can will this number out of existence." Bansal added, "I'd like for people to see this study as a call to action, sort of a wake-up call, especially for those individuals who are unconvinced by the devastation that this pandemic is causing." Brendan Morrow

8:34 a.m.

The United States has reportedly set a new record for most cases of COVID-19 confirmed in a single day.

The country on Thursday reported 77,640 new coronavirus cases, according to a count from NBC News. This is the highest single-day total of coronavirus cases during the pandemic so far, surpassing the previous record from July.

The number of daily cases in the U.S. has been rising in recent weeks and on July 16 went beyond 70,000 for the first time since July. On Thursday, eight states broke their single-day records, and "13 states have added more cases in the past week than in any other seven-day stretch," The New York Times reports.

As daily cases rise, according to CNN, "there is nearly no place in America where COVID-19 case counts are trending in the right direction." Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this week warned of a "distressing trend" in the U.S, with cases "increasing in nearly 75 percent of the country." The CDC is also warning that "smaller, more intimate" gatherings may be driving transmission.

"Unfortunately, we are seeing a distressing trend here in the United States," CDC deputy director for infectious diseases Jay Butler said, per CNBC. "...I recognize that we are all getting tired of the impact COVID-19 has had on our lives. We're tired of wearing masks, but it continues to be as important as it has ever been and I would say even more important than ever as we move into the fall season." Brendan Morrow

October 22, 2020

The number of Americans filing new jobless claims has declined to less than 800,000 for the first time in seven months.

The Labor Department on Thursday said that 787,000 Americans filed new jobless claims last week, a decline of 55,000 from the previous week's revised level. This was significantly below the 875,000 claims economists had been expecting, CNBC reports. It's also the first time since the middle of March that the number of claims has been below 800,000, CNN notes.

Additionally, the number of continuing claims declined by about 1 million to 8.37 million claims, according to CNBC. Thursday's report came after last week, the number of new jobless claims unexpectedly rose to the highest level in almost two months.

At the same time, CNN notes that "23.2 million Americans received some form of government jobless benefits in the week ended October 3." The number of new jobless claims has also still yet to fall below 695,000, which was the record for most claims filed in one week prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Some recovery is better than no recovery, but we want this to be stronger," Evercore ISI managing director and policy economist Ernie Tedeschi told The New York Times. "It's at risk of getting knocked off its slow momentum if we get another shock, another wave of the virus." Brendan Morrow

October 22, 2020

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a new guidance has expanded its definition of a COVID-19 close contact.

The CDC's latest guidance defines having a close contact with someone infected with COVID-19 as being within six feet of the individual for 15 or more cumulative minutes during a 24 hour period, The Washington Post reports. The CDC previously defined a close contact as being within six feet of an infected person for 15 consecutive minutes.

The new definition, The Associated Press writes, takes into account "briefer but repeated encounters" with an infected person. It specifies the 15 minutes of exposure within six feet is "added together over a 24-hour period," and so as an example, this could be "three 5-minute exposures for a total of 15 minutes)."

CDC Director Robert Redfield in a statement said that "as we get more data and understand this COVID we're going to continue to incorporate that in our recommendations." With this change, the Post noted the CDC was "greatly" expanding the group of people considered at risk of contracting COVID-19.

It's easy to accumulate 15 minutes in small increments when you spend all day together — a few minutes at the water cooler, a few minutes in the elevator, and so on,” Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security epidemiologist Caitlin Rivers told The Washington Post. "I expect this will result in many more people being identified as close contacts. This change underscores the importance of vigilant social distancing — even multiple brief interactions can pose a risk. Brendan Morrow

October 20, 2020

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a new report estimates there have been almost 300,000 excess deaths in the United States this year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

CDC researchers on Tuesday said that while about 216,000 deaths from COVID-19 had been confirmed as of Oct. 15, this "might underestimate the total impact of the pandemic on mortality," and they write that "299,028 excess deaths have occurred in the United States from late January through October 3, 2020, with two thirds of these attributed to COVID-19." This number takes into account fatalities from all causes "in excess of the expected number of deaths" for this period of time, the researchers explain.

The report found the largest percentage increases occurred among Hispanics and among adults age 25 to 44, with the latter group seeing a 26.5 percent spike.

"Although more excess deaths have occurred among older age groups, relative to past years, adults aged 25-44 years have experienced the largest average percentage increase in the number of deaths from all causes from late January through October 3, 2020," the report said.

The Washington Post explains that the main causes of the excess deaths are likely people dying from COVID-19 but not having the coronavirus recorded as their cause of death and people dying for other reasons after not seeking medical care or not being able to receive it due to the pandemic.

Steven Woolf, Virginia Commonwealth University Center on Society and Health director emeritus, told the Post this is another study demonstrating that "the number of people dying from this pandemic is higher than we think," adding that the number of excess deaths is likely to climb to 400,000 by the end of the year. Brendan Morrow

October 20, 2020

With North Dakota reporting the most COVID-19 cases per capita in the United States, Fargo on Monday became the first city in the state to issue a mask mandate.

"As a community, we must all do our part to greatly reduce the spread of this deadly COVID-19 disease," Mayor Tim Mahoney, a general surgeon, said in a statement. Fargo, North Dakota's biggest city, is in Cass County, which has the state's highest number of COVID-19 cases. Mahoney said he issued the mandate due to increased hospitalizations, a climbing death rate, and the high level of community spread. North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R) has asked people to wear masks, but refuses to impose a statewide mandate, saying it's "not a magic bullet to make this virus go away." Mahoney said that while he supports Burgum, "it would be great" if he enacted a statewide mandate.

Burgum's decision not to impose a mask mandate has angered members of the health-care community, with more than five dozen pediatricians recently sending him a letter that says by not making masks mandatory, he is ignoring "sound science and the recommendations of medical experts at local, state, and national levels." Three state health officers that Burgum appointed have also quit amid the pandemic, with one stepping down after the governor rescinded a new order that would have forced people to quarantine if they come in close contact with a person infected by the virus, The Associated Press reports.

Over the past week, there have been an average of 700 cases per day in the state — up 70 percent from the average two weeks earlier, The New York Times reports. As of Monday night, the state has recorded 408 COVID-19 related deaths, with 138 occurring this month, the North Dakota Department of Heath said. At least 254 were in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Catherine Garcia

October 19, 2020

The number of COVID-19 cases confirmed globally has passed 40 million, according to Johns Hopkins University's latest numbers.

This grim milestone comes as Europe has been experiencing a surge in coronavirus infections and last week reached a weekly record of almost 700,000 new cases, The Associated Press reports. The AP writes that "the global increase in recent weeks has been driven by a surge in Europe." In the United States, meanwhile, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic last week passed eight million.

Additionally, Reuters reports that the "pace of the pandemic continues to pick up," as a total of 32 days passed between the milestone of 30 million global cases and 40 million cases, whereas for comparison, Reuters reports, it took 38 days for the global total to rise from 20 million cases to 30 million cases. Before that, it took 44 days to go from 10 million cases to 20 million cases, and reaching 10 million cases took three months. At least 1.1 million people have died from COVID-19.

The U.S. on Friday also reported the highest number of new coronavirus cases in one day since July, and according to CNN, "there is nearly no place in America where COVID-19 case counts are trending in the right direction." Brendan Morrow

October 16, 2020

The number of COVID-19 cases reported in the United States has surpassed eight million, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. has seen a rising number of new daily coronavirus infections with a one-week average of more than 53,000 cases a day, an increase of over 55 percent in about a month, CNN reports.

New COVID-19 cases have been rising over the past two weeks in 41 states, with nine states reporting about the same number of cases during that time and none experiencing a decline, The New York Times reports.

"We are headed in the wrong direction," Johns Hopkins University epidemiologist Caitlin Rivers told the Times.

On Thursday, the U.S. reported more than 63,000 new COVID-19 cases, which was the highest one-day total since the end of July, The Washington Post reported.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, had previously stressed over the summer the need for the U.S. to get its number of daily COVID-19 cases down to 10,000 by September to avoid another giant wave, a goal that was ultimately not reached. Regarding the number of new cases being reported each day right now, Fauci this week told CNBC, "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," adding, "We're in a bad place now. We've got to turn this around." Brendan Morrow

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