Ar­eas that ap­peared to have avoided the worst of the coro­n­avirus out­break are see­ing surges of in­fec­tions, as wor­ries shift from ma­jor cities to ru­ral ar­eas.

Daily re­ported cases have dou­bled in re­cent weeks

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - FRONT PAGE - By Don Bab­win and Paul J. We­ber

For many states and coun­ties in the U.S., the dark days of the coro­n­avirus pan­demic in April un­folded on their tele­vi­sion screens, not on their doorsteps. But now, some places that ap­peared to have avoided the worst are see­ing surges of in­fec­tions, as wor­ries shift from ma­jor cities to ru­ral ar­eas.

While much of the fo­cus of con­cerns that the United States is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a dan­ger­ous sec­ond wave has been on big Sun­belt states that are re­port­ing thou­sands of new cases a day — like Texas and Florida — the wor­ry­ing trend is also hap­pen­ing in places like Kansas, where live­stock out­num­ber peo­ple.

In early June, Kansas looked to be bring­ing its out­break un­der con­trol, but its daily re­ported case numbers have more than dou­bled in re­cent weeks. On June 5, the seven-day av­er­age for daily new cases hov­ered at around 96; by Fri­day, that fig­ure was 211.

The spike con­vinced Kansas City Mayor Quin­ton Lu­cas to or­der em­ploy­ees and pa­trons of busi­nesses to wear masks, when 6 feet of sep­a­ra­tion isn’t pos­si­ble — mak­ing of­fi­cial some­thing the city had been rec­om­mend­ing for a while.

“Case numbers in Kansas City con­tinue to rise, and we are tak­ing all steps we can to en­sure pub­lic health and safety,” he said Fri­day.

Idaho and Ok­la­homa have seen sim­i­larly large per­cent­age in­creases, al­beit from low start­ing points. In Ok­la­homa, the sev­en­day av­er­age for daily new cases climbed from about 81 on June 5 to 376 on Fri­day, three weeks later. Dur­ing the same pe­riod, Idaho’s av­er­age jumped from around 40 to 160.

Many ru­ral coun­ties in states in­clud­ing Cal­i­for­nia, Arkansas, Mis­souri, Kansas, Texas and Florida have seen their con­firmed cases more than dou­ble in a week, from June 19 to Fri­day, ac­cord­ing to data com­piled by Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity. Lassen County, Cal­i­for­nia, went from just nine cases to 172, and Hot Spring County, Arkansas, went from 46 cases to 415; both spikes were at­trib­uted to out­breaks at pris­ons. Cases in Mc­Don­ald County, Mis­souri, more than tripled after Tyson Foods con­ducted fa­cil­ity-wide test­ing at a chicken plant there.

The daily num­ber of con­firmed in­fec­tions in the U.S. surged to an all-time high of 45,300 on Fri­day, eclips­ing the high of 40,000 set the pre­vi­ous day, ac­cord­ing to Johns Hop­kins.

While the rise partly re­flects ex­panded test­ing, ex­perts say there is am­ple ev­i­dence the scourge is mak­ing a come­back, in­clud­ing ris­ing deaths and hos­pi­tal­iza­tions in parts of the coun­try and higher per­cent­ages of virus tests com­ing back pos­i­tive.

Deaths are run­ning at about 600 per day, down from a peak of around 2,200 in mid-April. Some ex­perts have ex­pressed doubt that deaths will re­turn to that level be­cause of ad­vances in treat­ment and be­cause many in­fec­tions are hap­pen­ing in younger adults, who are more likely than older ones to sur­vive.

The virus is blamed for about 125,000 deaths and nearly 2.5 mil­lion con­firmed in­fec­tions na­tion­wide in the U.S., by Johns Hop­kins’ count. But health of­fi­cials be­lieve the true num­ber of in­fec­tions is about 10 times higher. World­wide, the virus has claimed close to a halfmil­lion lives with nearly 10 mil­lion cases.

The resur­gence in the U.S. has drawn con­cern from abroad. The Euro­pean Union seems al­most cer­tain to bar Amer­i­cans in the short term from en­ter­ing the bloc, which is cur­rently draw­ing up new travel rules, EU diplo­mats con­firmed Satur­day.

But the U.S. is not alone. Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel cau­tioned Satur­day that the coro­n­avirus pan­demic is far from over. In­dia re­ported more than 18,000 new cases, push­ing its cu­mu­la­tive to­tal over the half-mil­lion mark, the fourth high­est glob­ally be­hind the U.S., Brazil and Rus­sia.

Ger­man au­thor­i­ties re­newed a lock­down in a west­ern re­gion of about 500,000 peo­ple in the past week after about 1,300 slaugh­ter­house work­ers tested pos­i­tive for COVID-19, in an at­tempt to pre­vent the out­break from spread­ing across the area.

“The risk posed by the virus is still se­ri­ous,” Merkel said. “It’s easy to for­get be­cause Ger­many has got­ten through the cri­sis well so far, but that doesn’t mean we are pro­tected, that the risk has been averted; that is not the case, as is demon­strated by these re­gional out­breaks.”

Else­where, Egypt and Bri­tain said they would ease virus con­trols, while China and South Korea bat­tled smaller out­breaks in their cap­i­tals.

Bri­tain was ex­pected to scrap a 14-day quar­an­tine re­quire­ment for peo­ple re­turn­ing from abroad in a bid to make sum­mer va­ca­tion travel pos­si­ble. Only trav­el­ers from “red” zones, places with a high level of COVID-19, will be told to self-iso­late. A full list of coun­tries is due to be pub­lished next week.

Egypt on Satur­day lifted many re­stric­tions put in place against the coro­n­avirus pan­demic, re­open­ing cafes, clubs, gyms and the­aters after more than three months of clo­sure, de­spite a con­tin­ued up­ward trend in new in­fec­tions.

Au­thor­i­ties in other coun­tries were tak­ing a more cau­tious ap­proach, with the In­dian city of Gauhati, the cap­i­tal of As­sam state, an­nounc­ing a new two-week lock­down start­ing Mon­day, with night cur­fews and week­end lock­downs in the rest of the state. In­dia’s death toll has reached 15,685.

China saw an uptick in cases, one day after au­thor­i­ties said they ex­pect an out­break in Bei­jing to be brought un­der con­trol in the near fu­ture. The Na­tional Health Com­mis­sion re­ported 17 new cases in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal, the most in a week, among 21 na­tion­wide.

South Korea, where a resur­gence in the past month threat­ens to erase the coun­try’s ear­lier suc­cess, re­ported 51 new cases, in­clud­ing 35 in the Seoul met­ro­pol­i­tan area. Of­fi­cials, wor­ried about the frag­ile econ­omy, have re­sisted calls to reim­pose re­stric­tions eased in April.

Aus­tralia braced for more im­ported cases as cit­i­zens re­turn home. About 300 peo­ple were due to ar­rive this week­end from Mum­bai, In­dia, with oth­ers ex­pected to fol­low from South Amer­ica and In­done­sia. One state heath of­fi­cial said he is pre­par­ing for 5% to 10% of the re­turnees to be in­fected.

“The risk posed by the virus is still se­ri­ous. It’s easy to for­get be­cause Ger­many has got­ten through the cri­sis well so far, but that doesn’t mean we are pro­tected, that the risk has been averted; that is not the case, as is demon­strated by these re­gional out­breaks.”

— Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel

CHANDAN KHANNA/GETTY-AFP

Much of the fo­cus of con­cerns has been on big Sun­belt states like Florida, above, and Texas that are re­port­ing thou­sands of new cases a day.

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