Covid is accelerating across the globe as U.S. and Europe head into flu season

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Members of the medical personnel move a patient suffering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the CHR Centre Hospitalier Regional de la Citadelle hospital, in Liege, Belgium October 20, 2020.

Yves Herman | Reuters

The coronavirus pandemic is accelerating across the globe as U.S. cases climb and at least 10 other countries, half in Europe, report record highs in average daily new cases.

Argentina, Canada, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, Russia, Spain, Ukraine and the United Kingdom all hit record highs in average daily new Covid-19 cases on Monday, according to a CNBC analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University. Figures are based on a weekly average to smooth out fluctuations in daily reporting. Iran, Russia and Ukraine each hit record highs for deaths, Hopkins data shows.

When adjusting for population, the number of new infections in Europe has now overtaken that in the United States, with Europe reporting 231 new Covid-19 cases per 1 million people, based on a seven-day average, compared with 177 new Covid-19 cases per 1 million people in the U.S. Overall, Europe, which includes 27 European Union countries and the UK, is seeing nearly 120,000 new cases per day, Hopkins data shows.

In the United States, cases are also accelerating. New daily U.S. cases, as a seven-day average, totaled 58,397 on Monday, almost 18% higher than last week’s levels, according to Hopkins data. Cases are growing by at least 5% in 35 states, with 16 states reporting record high averages in daily cases Monday, according to the data. The U.S. still has the worst outbreak in the world with more than 8.2 million cases.

President Donald Trump, who tested positive for the virus earlier this month, has repeatedly insisted that the U.S. has more cases than any other country because the nation tests more people. But health officials and infectious disease experts dispute that claim, saying the rate of positive tests in the U.S. and hospitalizations are high in some states.

The overall U.S. positivity rate, or the percentage of Covid-19 tests that come back positive, is at 5.3%, according to Hopkins. Wisconsin, which hit a record high in average daily cases Monday, has a positivity rate of 12.6%. Kansas, another state that hit a new high, has a positivity rate of 19.4%, according to the tracker.

Additionally, Covid-19 hospitalizations were growing by 5% or more in 36 states Monday, according to a CNBC analysis of data collected by the Covid Tracking Project. Eleven states hit record highs in hospitalizations. The increase in hospitalizations could be especially dire as flu season approaches and more people seek treatment, medical experts warn.

“We are clearly in the second wave in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere and we really need to have more control of this infection at the community level,” said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist and professor at the University of Toronto.

Bogoch, also a member of the data and safety monitoring board, an independent group of experts that oversees U.S. clinical trials, said the U.S. is currently “trending in the wrong direction” as flu season approaches.

“If steps are not taken to reduce transmission at the community level, it’ll come to no surprise that health-care systems start to feel and pinch and start to head towards capacity and beyond capacity,” he said.

Health officials and medical experts also fear an uncontrolled virus through the fall and winter months could lead to a sharp increase in deaths. A coronavirus model from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, once cited by the White House, now projects more than 389,000 Covid-19 deaths by Feb. 1. That projection could drop if everyone wore masks while in public and around other people, according to the IHME.

The World Health Organization on Monday warned that the public will have to deal with the pandemic “for the long haul” as cases continue to rapidly grow with no signs of slowing. On Friday, the WHO said that Europe’s coronavirus outbreak was “concerning” as the number of available intensive care beds continues to dwindle and is near capacity in some regions.

As the northern hemisphere enters the fall and winter seasons, the international agency is seeing Covid-19 cases accelerate, particularly in Europe and North America, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a Monday press conference.

“I think everyone is expecting this to be over very, very quickly. This is going to take some time and I think we all need to be mentally prepared,” Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead, said at the same press conference. “This is not to scare anyone, but to get ourselves ready.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the United States’ leading infectious disease expert, made similar remarks in a CBS interview that aired Sunday, saying that the world isn’t near the end of the pandemic.

“When you have a million deaths and over 30 million infections globally, you cannot say that we’re on the road to essentially getting out of this. So quite frankly, I don’t know where we are. It’s impossible to say,” the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said.

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