Speed Reads

the coronavirus crisis

The U.S. hit its 27th day of record COVID-19 cases, and it is hammer time again in some hard-hit states

Back in mid-March, Tomas Pueyo famously predicted that the response to the COVID-19 pandemic would be a complicated balancing act he called "the hammer and the dance" — the hammer being lockdowns followed by more localized restrictions and the dance being periods of relative freedom where the outbreak would worsen. Most of the U.S. is in some form of dance right now, but several states — or parts of states — that were probably too eager to ease up on restrictions and too quick to dance too freely are getting hammered.

Collectively, the U.S. reported its 27th straight day of record high coronavirus cases Sunday, based on a seven-day average. Florida, Texas, California, and Arizona are recording alarming numbers of new cases every day, but they aren't alone — 13 states just reported new highs, including Montana, Delaware, West Virginia, and Alaska, The Washington Post reports.

The raw numbers are bad, but they aren't the only troubling indicator. In Texas, Austin Mayor Steve Adler (D), Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner (D), and the top elected official in Houston's Harris County, Judge Lina Hidalgo (D), warned Sunday that hospitals in their cities are 10 days to two weeks away from crisis as ICU beds fill up and medical personnel are stretched too thin. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) required masks to be worn in public starting Friday, enforced by $250 fines.

Turner said about 25 percent of people tested in Houston tested positive, versus 10 percent a month ago. More than 20 percent of people tested in Arizona and Florida's Miami-Dade County are positive, too, officials said.

On a positive note, the seven-day average of COVID-19 deaths fell to 485, from 562 a week earlier. Public health officials attribute the falling fatalities to a higher proportion of younger people getting infected, improved treatment drawn from experience, and the weeks-long lag between rising infections and rising deaths. They also warn that the disease is brutal even on many who survive it.

Hidalgo said she appreciates Abbott's mask mandate but "as long as we're doing as little as possible and hoping for the best, we're always going to be chasing this thing, we're always going to be behind, and the virus will always outrun us."

"The hardest in terms of the economy is the hammer," Pueyo explained a few weeks after his Medium post went viral. "But the hardest to pull off is the dance."