After nearly 3 months of downplaying and ignoring the Pandemic, the President has finally taken a few positive steps towards mitigating the spread of COVID-19. He is now strongly recommending the use of facial coverings. While this is not the same as a national mandate for masks that we recommend it is a step in the right direction. He still needs to reinstate some of the original guidelines for social distancing that expired April 30th. On the testing front, he seems to have shifted from saying the US should stop testing so much to saying that testing has allowed the US to show much better case fatality rate (CFR = deaths/cases) trends. This is the same argument we had advanced in May to try to convince the President to test more. The US needs to increase testing capacity to reduce turnaround times from more than a week currently to less than a day and to drive the positivity rate (percent positive test results) below the 5% level recommended by the WHO (see figure below). The government should not cut funding for additional testing capacity. Otherwise, contact tracing and targeted isolation programs would be extremely expensive and probably ineffective.
Hopefully, the President will take more aggressive actions once he recognizes how serious the Pandemic has become in the USA. Testing has turned up more asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic cases but it has also revealed real widespread community infections in the majority of states. A look at the trend in the number of Americans currently hospitalized in the USA shows that the favorable downward trend from mid-April to mid-June reversed and is now near the 60,000 highs set in mid-April. .
This shows that while the resurgence in daily case counts hit young adults first as they emerged recklessly from lockdown in May, the virus has spread now to older adults. In Florida, the median age of new cases that fell to 33yrs a month ago is now at 42yrs old – equal to the median age of Florida’s population. The figure below shows our near term forecast for deaths due to COVID-19 in the USA. Due to more testing, the CFR will be reduced from near 7% at its peak this Spring to below 3% this Summer but since the number of cases has now more than doubled, the total death count may be just as high. This means that the Summer outbreak could be as bad as the Spring outbreak. With no additional mitigation steps taken, we are now forecasting 9 million cases and 260,000 deaths in the USA by Election Day, November 3rd.