New coronavirus surge in the US: What you need to know

The United States is gripped by a third wave of the coronavirus, with several states now reporting a rise in new infections, as the pandemic continues to batter the worst-affected country in the world.

Since September 12, the country’s seven-day average of daily cases has surged by more than 70 percent from 34,371 to 59,143, according to the latest data by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

As of Thursday, total nationwide cases had passed 8.3 million, with more than 222,000 virus-related deaths, by far the highest tallies globally, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker.

The situation has become particularly dire in the Midwest and West, with record levels of hospitalisation pushing healthcare facilities and workers to the brink.

“Things are starting to move in a concerning direction,” Justin Lessler, associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

“This is likely due to a combination of factors, including relaxing of social distancing through changing policy and fatigue, and seasonality in the transmission,” he said.

Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told Al Jazeera that the “third peak” was a result of “people getting back to some semblance of their lives, and the inability of many states to test, trace and isolate”.

Increased testing

In recent weeks, the number of tests performed across the country has increased.

More than a million people have been tested daily on several days this month, according to data collected by the COVID Tracking Project.

Overall, more than 135 million people among the 330-million population have been tested for the virus, with seven percent giving a positive result.

Spike in hospitalisations

Last week, 42 states saw an increase in new coronavirus hospitalisations, COVID Tracking Project reported.

Since October 1, hospitalisations in New York rose by 53 percent and in Texas, there was a 32 percent jump over the past three weeks.

“The surge in hospitalisations we’re seeing now looks a little different: it’s less abrupt and much more geographically widespread. And this time, more states that experienced major outbreaks earlier in the year are seeing hospitalisations rise again,” the COVID Tracking Project noted in its weekly update.

The pandemic has already stretched the country’s healthcare system to the limit.

“The US has struggled to contain this pandemic because we do not have the public health infrastructure in place,” Adalja said.

Excess deaths

Coronavirus deaths hit daily records in Iowa, Minnesota, Montana and Wisconsin on Wednesday, according to a Reuters analysis.

But, the countrywide case fatality rate – the number of deaths among the positive cases – has declined since early September, government data showed. It is currently at 2.6 percent.

A CDC report published on Tuesday said nearly 300,000 more deaths than usual occurred from late January to October 3 this year. Two-thirds of those deaths were caused by COVID-19, with Black people and Hispanic Americans disproportionately affected.

The CDC said the total number of virus-related deaths is likely to be higher than the official tally.

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