Coronavirus cases in the U.S. are beginning to rebound following weeks of reported declines and warnings from top U.S. health officials that the country could be vulnerable to fresh outbreaks coinciding with the forthcoming flu season.
New cases were growing by 5% or more, based on a weekly average to smooth out the reporting, in 29 states and Washington D.C., as of Monday, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Wisconsin, Utah, Montana, Minnesota and Wyoming reported record high averages in daily new cases, according to the data.
Nationwide, daily coronavirus cases have grown nearly 20% compared with a week ago, moving above 43,300 new cases on average. The U.S. surpassed 200,000 reported Covid-19 deaths on Tuesday, the most of any country on the globe, according to Johns Hopkins.
“We are seeing a pretty sharp uptick here in the United States,” Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former U.S. Food and Drug Administration chief, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Tuesday. “Now whether or not that’s a post-Labor Day bounce, and it’s going to start to level off or it’s a beginning of an uptrend heading into the fall, it’s unclear right now.”
The increase in new cases follows weeks of declines since the coronavirus ripped through America’s Sun Belt states over the summer. After the U.S. reached a peak of more than 67,300 new coronavirus cases on average in late July, that figure dropped nearly 50% by mid-September but has since started to rise again.
Gottlieb said last week that the coronavirus will likely have “one more cycle” in the U.S. before next year, though he predicts that the nation will avert stringent lockdowns similar to those earlier in the outbreak now that it’s equipped with more Covid-19 testing and treatments.
“I think that there is a real risk that we’re going to see rising cases heading towards the end of this year,” Gottlieb told CNBC on Tuesday.
White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci has said for weeks that the U.S. is reporting an “unacceptably high” number of new coronavirus cases every day as the nation approaches the fall season. Ideally, the U.S. should be reporting daily new cases below 10,000, not around 40,000 as it currently stands, Fauci has said.
“Ultimately some will lead to hospitalizations and those will lead to deaths,” Fauci said during CNN’s CITIZEN conference on Tuesday, adding that the U.S. needs to reduce its daily number of cases “down sharply to a very low level.” “When you have a lot of cases floating around, it’s much more difficult to contain that than if you have a relatively low number.”
‘This has not gone away’
Some of the increase in Covid-19 cases across the U.S. are likely due to returning students and staff at universities and schools, on top of the Labor Day holiday, Dr. Carlos del Rio, a professor at the Emory University School of Medicine who specializes in infectious diseases, predicted.
While most of the newly reported cases appear to be growing among young people, who typically don’t develop severe symptoms that require hospitalization, that could change when people return home for the upcoming holiday season and mingle with older family members, del Rio warned.
“It’s important to remind people that this has not gone away,” del Rio said.
Northern Hemisphere approaches flu season
Global health officials are voicing their concern about growing Covid-19 cases in European countries combined with the upcoming flu season in the Northern Hemisphere.
“We can’t throw our hands up and say, ‘It’s hopeless. It’s going to happen anyway.’ That is unacceptable to take that approach. On the other hand, it’s unacceptable to not realize that we are entering into a risk period and we have to act accordingly as we enter into that risk period,” Fauci told CNN Tuesday, reiterating that people should continue washing their hands, practice physical distancing, wear a face covering and practice commonly suggested health guidance.
France, Spain, the U.K., Italy and Germany have all recently reported an increase in Covid-19 cases. Maria Van Kerkhove, head of the WHO’s emerging diseases and zoonosis unit, told CNN’s “New Day” on Friday that hospitalizations were rising in the U.K. and some ICU units in France reported reaching capacity.
“We haven’t even started to hit the flu season yet, so we’re worried that these increasing numbers of hospitalizations and ICU are really going to overburden an already burdened system,” Kerkhove told CNN.
The U.K. reported more than 3,900 new coronavirus cases on Monday, based on a seven-day average, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The country last reported a daily figure that high in early May.
On Tuesday, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the country was at a “perilous turning point” and announced new restrictions in England, telling people to work from home once again if possible. Johnson warned that the new measures, which include the early closing of pubs and restaurants, could be in place for up to six months.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said in a statement on Monday that the government’s top health advisors have said “Covid-19 is now spreading exponentially, in all age groups, across the U.K.,” and are warning of increased Covid-19 hospitalizations and death if the country didn’t respond immediately.
“Without adequate testing or contact tracing in London, we have no choice but to look at other measures to slow the spread of the virus,” Khan said in the statement. “I firmly believe that acting early, rather than having to impose more stringent measures later, is the right thing to do both for public health and the economy.”
— CNBC’s Katrina Bishop and Holly Ellyatt contributed to this report.