Coronavirus cases proliferate, especially in Midwest, as US death toll crosses 1 million

An average of more than 90,000 new US cases are now being identified each day, a 60 per cent increase from two weeks ago. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - Coronavirus cases are spreading at an alarming rate across the United States, particularly in the north-east and the Midwest, as the country's death toll crossed the 1 million mark.

An average of more than 90,000 new US cases are now being identified each day, a 60 per cent increase from two weeks ago. And in much of the north-east and Midwest, daily new-case reports have already surpassed the peak of last summer's Delta surge.

The new surge is probably worse than what is being recorded because many coronavirus infections are not included in the official tally. Many positive results from at-home virus tests go unrecorded.

Hospitalisations are increasing across the country, though more slowly than new cases. The number of patients with coronavirus in US hospitals surpassed 21,000 over the past week - well below the peak levels seen in prior surges but still a 23 per cent rise from two weeks ago.

The rise shouldn't surprise people, given the large number of unvaccinated Americans, said Dr Ajay Sethi, an associate professor of population health sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

In Wisconsin, for example, a rise in hospitalisations is "inevitable as long as we have so many people who are vulnerable," he said.

New-case reports in the state have increased by 81 per cent from the average two weeks ago. Deaths related to the virus have increased to an average of five a day.

Health officials across the Midwest are beginning to warn high-risk people to once again wear masks indoors and to get booster shots, as counties in several states move to higher-risk Covid-19 community levels, as defined by the Centres for Disease Prevention and Control.

In Colorado, a report from state officials and the Colorado School of Public Health warned Thursday that the BA.2.12.1 subvariant, first detected in the United States in central New York state in April, had probably become predominant in Colorado.

The authors projected that the number of people hospitalised with the virus in their state could reach 500 or more by mid-June. Denver public health officials reported Friday (May 13)that the city was at a medium Covid-19 level.

In Illinois, 23 counties also moved to the medium level, the state health department reported Friday. And in Michigan, major automakers, including Ford and Stellantis, the parent company of Chrysler, say they are reinstating mask mandates at facilities that the CDC classifies as having high Covid levels.

State officials asking that some of society's most vulnerable people take their own action may not be enough to temper the surge, experts say.

The lack of widespread mask mandates "feeds into the public desire to move on," Dr Sethi said, adding that he worries about a "generalised apathy" toward preventing transmission and a lack of appreciation for how infectious new variants have become.

"We never really have, in this country, embraced prevention as a whole," he said.

But preparation is precisely what the White House continued to emphasise Monday.

"People have to get vaccinated, they have to get boosted," said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. "That is the way to really start moving forward from Covid."

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