OVERLAND PARK, Kansas — The number of cases dropped sharply at the beginning of a summer, and people’s real hope that the worst of COVID-19 has passed is soaring death toll, full hospitals, and the painful realization that the coronavirus will continue to become American lives The facts will end in the foreseeable future.
Vaccination rates are rising, and reports of new infections are beginning to decline in some severely affected southern states. But the Labor Day weekend has little resemblance to Memorial Day, when the country had an average of fewer than 25,000 infections a day, and there was no resemblance to when President Joe Biden talked about being close to independence from the virus on July 4 .
On the contrary, with more than 160,000 new cases every day and about 100,000 COVID patients hospitalized across the country, this holiday feels more like a flashback to 2020. In Kansas, many state employees were once again sent home to work remotely. In Arizona, schools banned wearing masks, and thousands of students and teachers had to be quarantined. In Hawaii, the governor issued an appeal to tourists: Do not visit.
Dr. John Swartzberg, an infectious disease expert at the University of California, Berkeley, said: “The irony is that for most of May and June, things got so good that all of us, including I, inside, are talking about the final game.” “We are enjoying life again. In just a few weeks, it all fell apart.”
The economic recovery has left the country exhausted, nervous, and more uncertain than ever when it will return to normal.
More than 1,500 Americans died most days, worse than last summer when the case surged, but well below the winter peak. Although the national case growth rate has slowed in recent days and the southern states have made gradual progress, the epidemic in other regions is still increasing. With millions of schoolchildren now returning to the classroom — some of them for the first time since March 2020 — public health experts say that more coronavirus clusters in schools are inevitable.
Andrew Warlen, director of the Cass County Health Department in Missouri, said: “No one wants to go back to the mode of fighting the new crown virus,” he said. Even if students come into contact with people infected with the virus, some parents refuse to quarantine.
Vaccines can effectively prevent serious illness and death, but 47% of Americans are not fully vaccinated, which gives the highly contagious delta variants ample opportunity to cause pain and disrupt daily life. Health officials say that most hospitalized and dead patients are not vaccinated, and it is these unvaccinated people that are driving the current surge and burdening the healthcare system.
“I know a lot of people feel this whipping; 36-year-old Kate Franzman is the head of a non-profit organization living in Indianapolis, and she is wearing a mask again in public. .
The summer surge occurred in a tired, politically divided country with no unified vision of how to deal with the epidemic. During the previous rise, the promise of vaccines made many people think that it may only take a few months to return to normal life, and wearing a mask or staying at home is a short-term investment to achieve this goal. But the mutation of the virus and the refusal of millions of Americans to receive vaccination overshadow this hope.
In much of the south, intensive care units are overcrowded, and in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions where cases are still increasing, governors are preparing for worse days in the coming weeks.
“People sometimes ask us,’What is the ultimate goal here? You won’t conquer COVID, and it won’t disappear forever,'” said Elizabeth Groenweghe, chief public health researcher at the Kansas City Department of Public Health, Kansas. “And I think this is really to reach the point where the level of community communication is at least sustainable and will not have such a negative impact on our daily lives.”
The question increasingly is not how to eradicate the new coronavirus, but how to manage it. Compared with the first few months of the pandemic, businesses have opened, children have returned to classrooms, and stadiums are full. In most parts of the country, government orders for mandatory vaccination and new lockdown measures are politically unworkable.
A small number of Democratic governors in states such as Illinois, Louisiana, and New Mexico require masks to be worn in indoor public places, but most governors of both parties do not. Several Republican-led states prevented local officials from imposing their own mask regulations.
Kansas Governor Laura Kelly is a Democrat. Since the beginning of July, the number of cases in the state has been rising. She expressed no interest in requiring masks or implementing other restrictions across the state.
“I want to avoid this situation at all costs,” she said at a press conference at a children’s hospital, which faced a shortage of care and recorded COVID admission rates.
Republican Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb also pointed out that vaccination rather than mandatory wearing of masks is the best response to the current surge. Since the beginning of August, daily reports of new cases in his state have increased fourfold.
“I’m doing my best to let people see the answer to the question-and the answer to the question is vaccination,” Holcomb said. “I hate that people have to learn the cold truth through death and hospitalization.”
Signs of delta loss abound. Universities in Virginia and Texas have moved their courses online after the outbreak. A hospital in Kansas transferred a patient to Wisconsin because there were no staffed beds nearby. The exhausted hospital staff in North Dakota was asked to take on additional shifts.
“It’s as if you have finished a battle, and before you really get a break and really consider your personal well-being and recovery, you are pushed back to where you were,” said Dr. Michael Lebo, President and CEO of North Bismarck, Dakota. In the Sanford Health area, a hospital system located in the northern Midwest, the number of coronavirus hospitalizations increased by 339% in the four weeks of August.
Public health researchers describe the country’s current pandemic as fragile, and examples from other countries provide few specific answers on the way forward. After the delta-driven surge, infection levels in India and the United Kingdom dropped sharply, but cases in the United Kingdom have since rebounded. In Israel, despite the high vaccination rate, delta caused a significant increase in cases this summer.
In most parts of the United States, schools have only just begun to open, although children under the age of 12 are still not eligible for vaccinations, and the use of masks is uneven. As more and more employers need to be vaccinated, the vaccination rate is gradually increasing, but 36% of adults are still not fully vaccinated. Breakthrough infections in vaccinated people are becoming more frequent, which indicates that vaccines are losing some efficacy, although they are still highly protective against serious consequences.
Andrew Noymer, associate professor of public health at the University of California, Irvine, said: “What worries me the most is not where we are, although it is bad enough, but the direction we are heading.” “I think the United States. It’s still tough for the next six months. We haven’t seen the impact of the school’s reopening.”
Interviews with people across the country revealed anxiety, frustration and helplessness about the current pandemic situation. Some Americans say that once they are vaccinated, they are determined to return to activities they cherished before the pandemic. Others stated that they felt stuck in an endless state of COVID, worried about delta variants, and were newly aware of how much time they spent in public.
“We still live as if we were not vaccinated,” said Stacey Hopkins, a 58-year-old Atlanta community organizer who was vaccinated. “If we go to a restaurant, we will see if we can eat out or take out.”
No. 18 Chantheada from Aberdeen, Washington, said she was denied entry to a restaurant recently because she had not been vaccinated. She said that she felt sad about the increase in cases and adjusted her daily life accordingly.
“I took a lot of precautions,” Nou said. “I wash my hands more and don’t go out as often as I used to.”
But the return of restrictions and coercive measures has also led to frustration, especially as some vaccinated Americans questioned why they have to face new regulations when so many others are not vaccinated. Although fully vaccinated people are much less likely to contract COVID or require hospitalization, federal officials warn that if they are infected, they can still spread the virus to others.
“I hate wearing masks,” said Sabastien Pavese, a 23-year-old transportation coordinator in Portland, Oregon. The governor has ordered masks to be worn at public gatherings, including outdoors. “I think people should be able to walk around without a mask if they want. I was vaccinated and everything is fine.”
Justin Reid, a structural engineer in Meadowbrook, Alabama, was frustrated that his 4-year-old daughter’s kindergarten might need to wear a mask—so much that he decided to let her stay home if necessary.
“When I don’t have to, I won’t let her be affected this way,” Reid said, who said he had been vaccinated.
Experts say this epidemic will not be resolved immediately, nor can it guarantee that the current surge will be the last.
Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, associate dean of the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, said: “I think we will definitely be in a very unsatisfactory and chaotic state for the time being.”
Nevertheless, as more and more city councils vote to wear masks and more people decide to get vaccinated, the course of this epidemic will eventually make people feel more optimistic, just like at the beginning of summer.
The Mayor of Racine, Wisconsin, Cory Mason, said: “I hope we can have a very different conversation next March. We have weathered the storm.” There, masks became mandatory again. “I think this is one thing everyone agrees: can we go back to a place where the new crown virus has not dominated our time and life too much?” This article originally appeared in New York Times.