The United States has 4.3% of the world’s population but has had one of the worst performances of any country on earth in terms of bringing the virus under control. With 14,371,633 total COVID-19 cases reported in the United States as of December 5, the United States accounts for 21.85% of the total cases in the world (65,777,945). However, during the last fourteen days, the United States 2,457,689 new cases accounted for an astounding 30.47% of global cases (8,066,518). European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, COVID-19 situation update worldwide, as of 5 December 2020. While global cases are now slowly declining, cases in the United States are continuing to increase. And projections are that the number of new cases will continue to rise in the United States in the coming weeks. See, e.g., CNN, December 5, 2020, As hospitals start to max out, medical workers beg officials for new Covid-19 mandates, https://us.cnn.com/2020/12/05/health/us-hospitals-covid-pandemic/index.html.
The latest WHO weekly report (though November 29) shows global cases starting to come down or plateauing with the major exception being the Americas where cases continue to increase. See WHO, COVID-19 Weekly Epidemiological Update (data up to November 29, 2020)20201201_Weekly_Epi_Update_16
On deaths from COVID-19, the United States has recorded 278,994 from COVID-19 or 18.35% of the world total (1,520,082). Over the last fourteen days, the United States has recorded 24,583 deaths or 16.79% of the world total (146,387). Deaths in Europe have been very high in recent weeks following the extraordinary surge in the last two months in new cases although cases in Europe have been dropping over the last several weeks which should mean declining death totals in Europe in the coming weeks. Deaths in the United States are projected to continue rising and are already around one death every thirty seconds. See, e.g., CNN, November 28, 2020, US is ’rounding the corner into a calamity,’ expert says, with Covid-19 deaths projected to double soon, https://www.cnn.com/2020/11/28/health/us-coronavirus-saturday/index.html. The U.S. Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) periodically provides forecasts of deaths from COVID-19 based on various forecasting models. The most recent projections were updated December 3. The four charts below are from the CDC posting. CDC, December 3, 2020, COVID-19 Projections: Death, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/covid-data/forecasting-us.html.
U.S. hospitalizations due to COVID-19 have now topped 100,000 and many states are near or exceeding capacity for ICU beds. On December 4, 2020, The COVID Tracking Project tallied 101,276 U.S. hospitalizations due to COVID. The image below is copied from the COVID Tracking Project webpage and shows current hospitalizations more than 50% higher than prior peaks from April and June/July. https://public.tableau.com/profile/covid.tracking.project#!/vizhome/CTPWebsiteGallery/7_USCHospitalized.
Medical personnel are stretched to the breaking point and recent news stories review the challenges at hospitals with medical staff required to reuse N-95 masks (typically reuse is of masks treated in some way) because of shortages of personal protective equipment. See, e.g., NBC Today, December 5, 2020, NBC News investigation: Nurses say reusing N95 masks feels ‘unsafe’, https://www.today.com/video/nbc-news-investigation-nurses-say-reusing-n95-masks-feels-unsafe-97174085710; NPR, December 3, 2020, ‘We’re All Tired Of This’: Health Care Workers In Seattle Prepare For Another Surge, https://www.npr.org/2020/12/03/940114449/were-all-tired-of-this-health-care-workers-in-seattle-prepare-for-another-surge. Some media reports are indicating that the fallout from COVID-19 on the U.S. medical profession may damage U.S. healthcare for decades with doctors, nurses and other medical professionals opting to withdraw from the field after the exhausting and never ending challenges with COVID-19.
The last week in the United States, COVID-19 became the largest cause of death surpassing heart disease, strokes, etc. See, e.g., CBS News, December 5, 2020, COVID-19 was the leading cause of death in the U.S. this week, report says, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/covid-19-leading-cause-of-death-united-states-this-week/.
There is, of course, the good news of the likely approval for emergency use of several vaccines in the coming weeks in the United States. And there is a projected active rollout of vaccines from later in December through the summer. But there is a long road to actually getting the vast majority of the American population vaccinated, assuming that a change in Administrations will be able to change the views of a skeptical public that the vaccines will be safe. For example, even after the very positive press about the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, only 52% of Americans have indicated a willingness to be vaccinated for COVID-19 (although that is some improvement from earlier views). See Gallup, November 17, 2020, More Americans Now Willing to Get COVID-19 Vaccine,https://news.gallup.com/poll/325208/americans-willing-covid-vaccine.aspx.
Certainly for the first two quarters of 2020 and perhaps longer, the U.S. will be struggling to bring the case count down, take the burden off of the health care system, and reduce the number of deaths as we try to bring life back to some semblance of normal. For the United States, it is certain to be a very dark and challenging winter and at least early Spring. While the current Administration could have significantly changed the challenges for the public and our health care system by having a consistent and uniform message to have the public wear masks and do the other steps needed to reduce the spread of the virus, the Trump Administration has opted not to do that. The Biden Administration is 46 days from taking office. We are likely to suffer more than 100,000 additional deaths by then. A tragic outcome for a pandemic that should have been far more manageable.