Speed Reads

the coronavirus crisis

The U.S. has entered the 'death handoff' stage of the COVID-19 outbreak

The U.S. COVID-19 death toll passed 71,000 Wednesday morning and the number of cases, currently marked at 1.2 million, keeps rising steadily. Trump administration and outside models both forecast significant upticks in death as states lift coronavirus mitigation measures — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) unexpectedly announced Tuesday that hair salons and public pools can open Friday, for example.

"For every indication of improvement in controlling the virus, new outbreaks have emerged elsewhere, leaving the nation stuck in a steady, unrelenting march of deaths and infections," The New York Times reports. New York City, the worst-hit area in the U.S., has seen a sizable drop in new cases, but new clusters are appearing in the South, Midwest, and other parts of the country. Taken as a whole, America's coronavirus curve has plateaued, but "the plateau is what I call a death handoff situation," University of Minnesota epidemiologist Michael Osterholm told Politico.

"Coronavirus in America now looks like this," the Times summarizes:

More than a month has passed since there was a day with fewer than 1,000 deaths from the virus. Almost every day, at least 25,000 new coronavirus cases are identified, meaning that the total in the United States ... is expanding by between 2 and 4 percent daily. Rural towns that one month ago were unscathed are suddenly hot spots for the virus. It is rampaging through nursing homes, meatpacking plants, and prisons, killing the medically vulnerable and the poor, and new outbreaks keep emerging in grocery stores, Walmarts, or factories, an ominous harbinger of what a full reopening of the economy will bring. [The New York Times]

Trump acknowledged the tradeoff between death and opening businesses in an interview with ABC News on Tuesday, but his cost-benefit analysis tilts toward the economy and he is winding down the coronavirus task force without an apparent strategy to mitigate the risks. While Trump says the U.S. has ample tests to monitor the coronavirus and plenty of personal protective equipment to treat it, CDC and FEMA officials privately discuss shortfalls and fret about reopening too fast, Politico reports. Most Americans share their concerns.