The worst-case scenarios for COVID-19 are still in play

Major outbreaks are accelerating across the U.S.

Coronavirus rolling down a hill about to smash into America.
(Image credit: Illustrated | iStock)

Coronavirus is back in a serious way, although it never really left. Though new cases are still declining in some states, in others they are rising fast — like California, Texas, North Carolina, Alabama, South Carolina, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Nevada, Florida, and Arizona. In every one of those states positive test rates are either increasing or flat, implying it is not increased testing producing these increases, but increased spread. These latter two states are especially worrisome, given their large population of seniors in retirement communities and nursing homes, where a large portion of deaths have occurred.

When the pandemic first struck, I figured — based on our total lack of a serious federal containment effort, and our abysmal health care system — that it would be worse here than any other rich country. That has turned out to be extremely true in terms of total cases and deaths, but not in per-person terms so far; only the New York City area had a really severe outbreak on the scale of Italy's Lombardy region. But that could very much still happen. Exponential outbreaks are clearly in progress once again in many states, and they could easily spread to others. Judging from the eagerness of many states to ditch their lockdown measures, the continuously AWOL Trump administration, and the blitheness much of the population is showing about containment precautions, it might even be more likely than not.

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Ryan Cooper

Ryan Cooper is a national correspondent at His work has appeared in the Washington Monthly, The New Republic, and the Washington Post.