(CNN) — US Covid-19 cases will begin to rapidly accelerate in about a week, a leading health expert says, as the country’s daily averages keep climbing toward the summer’s peak and several states are setting hospitalization records.
The US recorded more than 60,300 new cases Tuesday, and the national seven-day case average hit about 59,500 — an increase of about 73% in five and a half weeks, Johns Hopkins University data show.
That’s the highest average since August 3. And things will likely get worse, experts warn.
“It’s going to be a difficult fall and winter,” Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration, told CNBC on Monday evening. “I think we’re about two or three weeks behind Europe — so we’re about a week away from starting to enter a period where we’re going to see a rapid acceleration in cases.”
The EU’s recent spike came “about a week or two earlier” than the US, so it may a preview of what’s ahead, CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta said Wednesday.
But the United States’ surge could soon be worse, because the US entered the fall with a higher case baseline, as Europe had brought its daily cases to far lower levels in the summer with stricter public health rules and restrictions, experts have said.
Experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci have warned for weeks that the US’s baseline — never dropping below 30,000 daily since late June — was far too high entering the fall because causes likely will compound as cooler weather drive more gatherings indoors and students mix in newly reopened colleges and schools.
Hospitalizations in the US are also rising, with more than 39,000 Covid-19 patients nationwideas of Tuesday — the highest total in about two months — according to the Covid Tracking Project. The country’s highest pandemic levels were in late April and late June, above 59,700 in both cases.
Ten states recorded their highest number of Covid-19 hospitalizations Tuesday: Arkansas, Iowa, Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wisconsin, according to the Covid Tracking Project.
“This fall and winter season is when the coronavirus is going to want to spread,” Gottlieb said.
‘Get ready:’ 70,000 new infections daily
By next week or the week after that, the US could be recording up to 70,000 new cases daily, Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, said Tuesday. And the numbers could keep rising after that, he said.
“Look out for your mental health, because the normal response to this is people are going to get sad and upset, and maybe even depressed, so have access to mental health counseling,” Hotez said. “In other words, put those belts and suspenders in and get ready.”
In Nevada, Gov. Steve Sisolak warned of “Covid fatigue” and said more restrictions could be on the way if residents don’t help bring Covid-19 numbers down. The state’s daily case count has doubled in the past month and its test positivity rate is the highest it’s been since early September — and more than 80% higher than the goal set by World Health Organization officials.
And as holidays approach, experts worry gatherings will help drive an already rampant spread.
“If you really want to get together indoors, everybody should quarantine themselves for 14 days, and then get tested which would substantially reduce the risk,” emergency physician Dr. Leana Wen said Tuesday.
States take additional measures
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Tuesday several regions of the state will see more restrictive mitigation standards go into effect by the end of the week.
The new measures will include no indoor service for bars and restaurants and a closing time of 11 p.m. for outdoor services. They also include new restrictions on social gatherings, not to exceed 25 people.
“As colder weather approaches and flu season is upon us, we’re going to see the rippling effects of these current unfortunate trends,” Prtizker said in a news release. “The massive surge of cases in our neighboring states will continue to have a spillover effect. There is no easy fix for the effects of this virus on our economy and our public health.”
The governor has previously urged residents to be extra vigilant, warning while the state isn’t seeing as severe effects as nearby regions, that could quickly change. In past weeks, neighboring Wisconsin reported record-high case counts, hospitalizations and daily death toll and Gov. Tony Evers announced a field hospital would open to respond to a surge in patients.
New Mexico is also implementing more measures to help slow the spread, state officials announced Tuesday.
Starting Friday, businesses that record four “rapid responses” — which occur when an employer reports a case of the virus — in a 14-day period will have to close for two weeks. The new measure will apply to food and drink establishments, retail, lodging and close-contact businesses, officials said.
Retail establishments will also have to close by 10 p.m. every night, officials said. New Mexico experienced “its worst week for Covid-19 infections” last week, health officials said, with a new rate of spread and new case rate among the highest in the US.
In Washington state, Gov Jay Inslee said the state was battling outbreaks on college campuses and “significant increases in Covid-19 infections that have occurred particularly in congregate living areas, like Greek houses, and large social gatherings of students.”
He announced new restrictions for campuses including limiting the number of residents sharing a sleeping area and requiring people in all common areas to wear a mask and remain socially distant.