Coro­n­avirus deaths take an ex­pected turn for the worse

Enterprise-Record (Chico) - - NEWS - By Mike Stobbe and Nicky Forster

NEW YORK » A long-ex­pected up­turn in U.S. coro­n­avirus deaths has be­gun, driven by fa­tal­i­ties in states in the South and West, ac­cord­ing to data on the pan­demic.

The num­ber of deaths per day from the virus had been fall­ing for months, and even re­mained down as states like Florida and Texas saw ex­plo­sions in cases and hospi­tal­iza­tions — and re­ported daily U.S. in­fec­tions broke records sev­eral times in re­cent days.

Sci­en­tists warned it wouldn’t last. A coro­n­avirus death, when it oc­curs, typ­i­cally comes sev­eral weeks af­ter a per­son is first in­fected. And ex­perts pre­dicted states that saw in­creases in cases and hospi­tal­iza­tions would, at some point, see deaths rise too. Now that’s happening.

“It’s con­sis­tently pick­ing up. And it’s pick­ing up at the time you’d ex­pect it to,” said Wil­liam Han­age, a Har­vard Univer­sity in­fec­tious dis­eases re­searcher.

Ac­cord­ing to an As­so­ci­ated Press anal­y­sis of data from Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity, the seven-day rolling av­er­age for daily re­ported deaths in the U.S. has in­creased from 578 two weeks ago to 664 on July 10 — still well be­low the heights hit in April. Daily re­ported deaths in­creased in 27 states over that time pe­riod, but the ma­jor­ity of those states are av­er­ag­ing un­der 15 new deaths per day. A smaller group of states has been driv­ing the na­tion­wide in­crease in deaths.

Cal­i­for­nia is av­er­ag­ing 91 re­ported deaths per day while Texas is close be­hind with 66, but Florida, Ari­zona, Illi­nois, New Jer­sey and South Carolina also saw siz­able rises. New Jer­sey’s re­cent jump is thought to be par­tially at­trib­ut­able to its less fre­quent re­port­ing of prob­a­ble deaths.

The im­pact has al­ready been felt by fam­i­lies who lost kin — and by the health care work­ers who tried to save them.

Rublas Ruiz, a Mi­ami in­ten­sive care unit nurse, re­cently broke down in tears dur­ing a birth­day din­ner with his wife and daugh­ter. He said he was over­come by the num­ber of pa­tients who have died in his care.

“I counted like 10 pa­tients in less than four days in our ICU and then I stopped do­ing that be­cause there were so many,” said the 41-year-old nurse at Ken­dall Re­gional Med­i­cal Cen­ter who lost an­other pa­tient Mon­day.

The virus has killed more than 130,000 peo­ple in the U.S. and more than a half-mil­lion world­wide, ac­cord­ing to Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity, though the true num­bers are be­lieved to be higher.

Deaths first be­gan mount­ing in the U.S. in March. About two dozen deaths were be­ing re­ported daily in the mid­dle of that month. By late in the month, hun­dreds were be­ing re­ported each day, and in April thou­sands. Most hap­pened in New York, New Jer­sey and else­where in the North­east.

Deaths were so high there be­cause it was a new virus tear­ing through a densely pop­u­lated area, and it quickly swept through vul­ner­a­ble groups of peo­ple in nurs­ing homes and other places, said Perry Halki­tis, the dean of the Rut­gers Univer­sity School of Pub­lic Health in New Jer­sey.

Many of the in­fec­tions oc­curred be­fore govern­ment of­fi­cials im­posed stay-at-home orders and other so­cial-dis­tanc­ing mea­sures. The daily death toll started fall­ing in mid-April — and con­tin­ued to fall un­til about a week ago.

LYNNE SLADKY — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

On Mon­day, a health care worker ad­min­is­ters a COVID-19 test at a site spon­sored by Com­mu­nity Health of South Florida at the Martin Luther King Jr. Clin­ica Cam­pesina Health Cen­ter in Home­stead, Fla.

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