Richmond Times-Dispatch

Surging cases

Big U.S. cities are seeing dramatic increases.

- BY BRITTANYSH­AMMAS, MARK GUARINO AND JACQUELINE DUPREE

For a few months, coronaviru­s-weary Chicago residents got a reprieve from the strict regulation­s that shuttered the nation’s third-largest city during the spring.

After infections plummeted in early June, restaurant­s welcomed diners back inside. Movie theaters, fitness centers and bowling alleys reopened their doors. And the barriers came down on the bike pathway along the city’s cherished lakefront.

But with new coronaviru­s cases surging beyond the springtime peak, Chicago is now hunkering down. Statewide measures have closed some businesses and limited the capacity at others, while officials are urging residents to stay home. Again.

“We’ve been through a heck of a lot this year,” Lori Lightfoot, the city’s Democratic mayor, said during a recent news conference. “And it’s not over.”

Across much of America, the picture is similar. Major metropolit­an areas were the face of the pandemic before being overtaken by spikes in less populated parts of the country in September. Since then, the nation’s worst outbreaks have been concentrat­ed in rural parts of the Upper Midwest.

Yet dramatic increases have been reported in many major American cities in recent weeks, with some being hit harder than they were during their previous peaks. Testing has greatly ramped up since the start of the pandemic, but that alone does not explain the growing caseloads.

“The dreaded fall wave,

“We’ve been through a heck of a lot this year. And it’s not over.”

Lori Lightfoot, Chicago mayor, regarding the city’s

battle against the coronaviru­s pandemic

in many places, is upon us,” said Josh Michaud, an epidemiolo­gist and associate director for global health policy at the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation. “And that includes in metropolit­an areas.”

In Cook County, where Chicago is located, the seven-day average of new cases hit a record high of 4,654 on Nov. 17— far outpacing the peak of 1,690 during the spring surge. Deaths are lower than the numbers seen in the spring but have climbed in recent weeks.

With winter approachin­g, business owners who stayed afloat by turning to outdoor service have been investing in heating lamps, hoping to keep customers coming even in temperatur­es that can drop below freezing.

Michelle Foik, co-owner of Eris Brewery & Cider House, said she saw the shutdown of indoor dining as inevitable. The facility’s patio has been “our saving grace,” she said, but she worries about what will happen this winter. She’s torn between relief that the rise in cases was met with more restrictio­ns and concerned over the impact on her business.

“Believe me, we need the money,” Foik said. “We’re a start-up. We are investing in our future, but if this become a longtime shutdown, it just hurts everything.”

The second peak in Chicago mirrors those in metropolit­an areas across the country. In recent weeks, counties home to cities including Philadelph­ia, Los Angeles, Detroit, Las Vegas and Minneapoli­s have seen new cases surpass their past highs. Miami-Dade County has been trending up again, while Salt Lake County is experienci­ng its first major peak of the pandemic, with cases and hospitaliz­ations rising since early October.

In Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, Valleywise Health “had a little breather” after the summer’s surge in Sun Belt states, said Michael White, the health system’s chief clinical officer. But the seven-day average of new cases, which hovered around 500 a day in late October, exceeded 2,000 on Monday.

“We’re hanging in there is how I would describe it,” White said. “Our biggest concern always is, as we continue to see this case count rise, that that certainly can lead to more folks needing hospitaliz­ation down the road, on top of a time where we usually see a higher rate of hospitaliz­ations for non-COVIDrelat­ed illnesses.”

Health officials attribute the virus’s resurgence in cities to several factors, including eased restrictio­ns, increased gatherings and what’s being called “COVID fatigue.”

Eight months into the pandemic, “there is no longer that sense of urgency,” said Mouhanad Hammami, chief health strategist in Wayne County, home to Detroit. “When you live with something, it is no longer urgent, and you tend to get desensitiz­ed to it.”

Officials in many hard-hit cities also point to increasing­ly widespread transmissi­on across the United States, which has been reporting record-setting numbers of infections. Over the past week, the country had well over 150,000 new cases each day. Ahead of Thanksgivi­ng, traditiona­lly a time of significan­t travel and extended family gettogethe­rs, health experts feared the number would continue to climb.

 ?? THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Nurse Jessica Franz left the OlatheMedi­cal Center in Olathe, Kan., on Thursday afterworki­ng the graveyard shift. Franz, 39, was marking Thanksgivi­ngwithout her mother-in-law, Elaine Franz, who died of the coronaviru­s on Nov. 10, just one day before her 78th birthday.
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Nurse Jessica Franz left the OlatheMedi­cal Center in Olathe, Kan., on Thursday afterworki­ng the graveyard shift. Franz, 39, was marking Thanksgivi­ngwithout her mother-in-law, Elaine Franz, who died of the coronaviru­s on Nov. 10, just one day before her 78th birthday.

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