LOS ANGELES - Amid an alarming spate of record-breaking days in newly-confirmed case counts in the U.S., Johns Hopkins reported more than 3 million confirmed COVID-19 cases recorded in the United States, a stark reminder of the virus’ rapid spread throughout the country in the span of just a few months.
The data comes from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center which reported that, as of July 8, there were more than 131,000 COVID-19 deaths and 936,000 recoveries in the U.S. Across the world, there were more than 11.8 million confirmed cases, 545,000 deaths and over 6 million recoveries.
News of the 3 million milestone was expected, considering that confirmed COVID-19 cases have been surging in different parts of the country, with some state and local leaders re-implementing lockdown measures in an effort to curb the virus’ spread.
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In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered bars and restaurants to cease providing indoor service to customers in counties which had high COVID-19 case numbers.
Certain California cities have also begun to implement fines and fees for individuals who are not caught wearing a mask in public. In West Hollywood, California, people not in compliance with the mask rule could be issued a $300 fine.
In New York, the former epicenter of the novel coronavirus in the U.S., there were more than 900 new COVID-19 cases recorded on July 2, the first time that the confirmed case count reached that level in weeks.
“I cannot repeat enough that our actions today — those of individuals being smart and following all precautions, and local governments enforcing the state’s guidelines — will determine which direction these numbers go,” said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
In late June, the European Union barred American travelers from visiting its member countries due to high COVID-19 numbers in the U.S. Some individual states — such as New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut — are requiring travelers originating from areas with high numbers of confirmed cases to undergo 14 days of quarantine.
As of July 7, there were 19 states in total that met the criteria for the quarantine advised by those three northeastern states.
The grim milestone also came shortly after a troubling report from the New York Times on hundreds of health experts’ concerns that the coronavirus may be airborne. Previously, the virus was believed to have spread primarily through nasal droplets.
If the virus is airborne, it is possible that a person could be infected simply by breathing in air in a space that was recently occupied by a COVID-19 positive individual, scientists say.
Also troubling is a renewed concern over lack of personal protective equipment for medical workers on the front lines of the pandemic in the U.S.
According to a July 7 report from the Associated Press, representatives from the National Nurses United union expressed concern over protective gear that needs to be reused multiple times. “We’re five months into this and there are still shortages of gowns, hair covers, shoe covers, masks, N95 masks,” said Deborah Burger, president of National Nurses United, who cited results from a survey of the union's members. "They’re being doled out, and we’re still being told to reuse them.”
The lack of equipment forced states and hospitals to compete against each other, the federal government and other countries in desperate, expensive bidding wars.
On Monday, the American Hospital Association, American Medical Association and American Nurses Association wrote an open letter urging people to wear masks to prevent the spread of the virus.
“Moving forward, we must all remain vigilant and continue taking steps to mitigate the spread of the virus to protect each other and our loved ones. There is only one way we will get through this – together,” their letter read.
As of July 7, only one vaccine candidate had been approved for limited use, while four were in the large-scale efficacy testing phase and 10 were in the expanded safety trial phase, according to the New York Times. Previous predictions as to when a vaccine may be available had been between 12 to 18 months.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading expert on the COVID-19 pandemic, warned that even if a vaccine was widely available by year’s end or at the start of 2021, its widespread efficacy in the U.S. would be questionable due to people who refuse to take it, such as anti-vaxxers.
During a July 6 interview, Fauci offered a signal of optimism when he stated “we will get through this.” But the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has not been shy in giving warnings about the present state of the pandemic. Last week, Fauci said that he would not be surprised if daily new confirmed cases in the U.S. climbed to 100,000 if the current situation does not improve.
“I can’t make an accurate prediction, but it’s going to be very disturbing, I will guarantee you that. Because when you have an outbreak in one part of the country, even though in other parts of the country they’re doing well, they are vulnerable,” Fauci said.
“We can’t just focus on areas that are having the surge” he said, “it puts the entire country at risk.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.