“We easily will hit six-figure 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 the deaths are going to go up precipitously in the next three to four weeks, following usually new cases by about two to three weeks.”
Social gatherings and family events moving indoors to avoid the colder weather is largely to blame for the high rates of spread, officials said over the weekend.
34 states report rise in cases
At least 35 states reported more new Covid-19 cases in the last week than the week prior, according to Johns Hopkins data.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Saturday reported an additional 1,994 coronavirus cases — the highest single-day total since May.
“We’re still in the midst of a pandemic and need everyone to take this seriously. Wear a mask. Social distance,” Murphy tweeted.
New Jersey had eight new virus-related deaths, bringing the state’s total fatality toll 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 resident deaths. That’s the third day this month the state has reported more than 4,000 new cases in a single day, according to a CNN tally. Florida has had a total of 776,251 Covid-19 cases and 16,417 state residents have died, the health department said. There have also been 203 fatalities of non residents.
Pennsylvania reported 2,043 new cases Saturday.
“Daily increases are now comparable with what we saw in April 2020,” the state health department said in a statement. An additional 29 virus-related deaths were reported Saturday.
Michigan, with 3,338 new cases Saturday, marked its highest single-day total during the pandemic, according to state Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Lynn Sutfin. The state also reported 35 new deaths.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan’s Chief Medical Executive and Chief Deputy for Health, said the data showed “alarming increases” in new infections.
“If rates continue like this, we risk overwhelming our hospitals and having many more Michiganders die,” Khaldun 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 have been reported in the state for six of the last nine days, according to health department data. There were 63 new deaths.
Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike made an emotional appeal to residents on the importance of face coverings.
“As we see the numbers go up in the hospitals, people are bringing more beds, trying to prepare for the Covid units again. And these staff that went through all that pain to try to save as many people as they can are seeing history repeat itself,” she said. “We don’t have a vaccine yet, but we have a mask, and we’re asking people to use that, and I don’t know what else we can say.”
And Colorado officials issued a new order limiting gatherings to 10 people from no more than two households in response to climbing infections and hospitalizations.
“We need to keep gatherings smaller and with people from fewer households — we are asking everyone to ‘shrink their bubble’ to reduce the spread,” Colorado Department of Health and Environment Executive Director Jill Hunsaker Ryan said in a Friday news release.
‘This is not a drill’
Despite the troubling trends, health officials maintain basic public health measures can help turn things around: masks, social distancing, avoiding crowds and frequent hand washing.
“They sound very simple, but we’re not uniformly doing that and that’s one of the reasons why we’re seeing these surges,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said Friday. “We can control them without shutting down the country.”
“I think that would be a great idea to have everybody do it uniformly,” he said. “If people are not wearing masks, then maybe we should be mandating it,” he said.
A leading World Health Organization official on Friday also urged country leaders to “take immediate action to prevent further unnecessary deaths, essential health services from collapsing and schools shutting again.”
“As I said it in February and I’m repeating it today, this is not a drill,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a news conference.
Expert: Vaccine may not come this year
While many experts and officials have worked to give hopeful estimates on when a Covid-19 will be available, that timeline remains uncertain.
National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins said Friday that while he’s “cautiously optimistic” about the US having a vaccine authorized by the end of the year, he said it “might not happen and it might take longer.”
But Collins added it was good news that the US has more than one vaccine candidate in development.
“If you were betting the whole thing on one vaccine, I’d be a lot more worried,” he said.
And when a vaccine does get approved, experts have said it’s crucial that enough Americans get it. If only half of the country is willing to get vaccinated, Collins warned, Covid-19 could stick around for years.
“When I look at the attitudes that are out there now about this vaccine, and about who would be interested in taking it — it’s really, really troubling,” Collins said at a National Press Club virtual event. “I’ve been talking so optimistically about how we are likely to have a vaccine by the end of the year, but if only 50% of Americans are interested in taking it, we’re never going to get to that point of immunity across the population where Covid-19 goes away.
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.