Coronavirus is devastating the US, and leaving an uneven toll

2020-12-07 20:10:09
Coronavirus is devastating the US, and leaving an uneven toll

The United States is going through a particularly devastating week, one of the worst since the coronavirus pandemic began nine months ago.

On Friday, a single-day record was set, with more than 226,000 new infections. It was one of many data points that illustrated the depth and spread of a virus that has killed more than 278,000 people in this US.

“It’s just an astonishing number,” said Caitlin Rivers, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “We’re in the middle of this really severe wave and I think as we go through the day to day of this pandemic, it can be easy to lose sight of how massive and deep the tragedy is.”

In the state of California, where daily case reports have tripled in the last month, Governor Gavin Newsom announced a new round of regional stay-at-home orders to address a mounting crisis over intensive-care beds.

Some counties in central California said they were enacting tough new restrictions this weekend, before the state rules come into effect.

And in the state of Florida, which is in the early stages of a new surge, physicians and politicians alike worried that there might not be enough resources to treat the sick.

As the virus has spread, infectious-disease experts have gained a better understanding of who among America’s nearly 330 million residents is the most vulnerable.

Nursing home deaths have consistently represented about 40% of the country’s COVID-19 deaths since midsummer, even as facilities kept visitors away and took other precautions and as the share of infections related to long-term care facilities fell substantially.

Americans who have conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity — about 45% of the population — are more vulnerable.

And new evidence has emerged that people in lower-income neighborhoods experienced higher exposure risk to the virus because of their need to work outside the home.

The poor, in particular, have been more at risk than the rich, according to analyses of those who have been sickened by the virus or succumbed to it.

And new studies have suggested that the reason the virus has affected Black and Latino communities more than white neighborhoods is tied to social and environmental factors, not any innate vulnerability.

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