Medical personnel with full PSA pushes a stretcher with a deceased patient on June 30, 2020 in Houston, Texas, to a car outside the Covid-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center.
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Reported coronavirus-related deaths appear to be increasing in Florida, Texas, California, Arizona, and some other states struggling to curb fast-growing outbreaks, according to a CNBC analysis of data collected by Johns Hopkins University.
After peaking at an average of more than 2,000 deaths a day just three months ago, mainly caused by New York and New Jersey, deaths in the United States have slowly decreased – from June 23 to June 23 to an average of less than 600 Deaths per day July 8th. Covid-19 deaths in the United States have decreased or remained relatively stable for weeks, although the number of cases has more than doubled since mid-May. But the daily death toll in the US appears to be rising again, epidemiologists say.
The number of deaths from Covid-19 has been increasing steadily across the country, with the average number of deaths per day for the past three consecutive days rising to over 600 on July 9, based on an average of seven days of reported deaths per day, caused by fluctuations in several cases hot spots. Epidemiologists are concerned that deaths will accelerate again, even if the data are only a few days long.
US officials and the general public should have expected the death toll to increase, Larry Levitt, executive vice president of health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told CNBC. Deaths tend to lag behind new cases, as it can take weeks for a patient to get sick enough to be hospitalized and eventually die.
"That was predictable. We seem to have had difficulties in this country looking a few weeks in advance," said Levitt. "But we know the pattern that more and more people get infected, more people are hospitalized, and ultimately more people die."
According to Hopkins data, daily fatalities in Florida, Texas, California and Arizona have risen to record levels in the past three days.
California has reported an average of 85 new coronavirus-related deaths per day in the past seven days from Thursday, an increase of more than 29% over a week. This emerges from the CNBC analysis of the data compiled by Hopkins. According to Hopkins, the state's death toll at Covid-19 is now 6,859.
Florida has had an average of 56 deaths per day in the past seven days, an increase of over 35% compared to a week ago, according to CNBC's analysis. Hopkins & # 39; data shows that more than 4,000 people have died from the disease in the state so far.
On Thursday, Texas reported an average of 66 new deaths a day in the last seven days, an increase of more than 106% in the past week, according to the CNBC analysis. According to Hopkins, more than 3,000 people have died from Covid-19 in the state so far.
However, data on the death are incomplete, say epidemiologists. If a Covid-19 patient has an underlying condition such as heart disease and the virus worsens and dies, the doctor can classify the cause as one of the two categories. Elderly patients who die in nursing homes often have the coronavirus, but are not tested often, they said.
"Records can be anywhere," said Dr. Bruce Y. Lee, professor of health policy and management at the City University of New York.
However, the country is now much better prepared for the influx of Covid 19 patients than at the beginning of the outbreak, according to epidemiologists. This should help avoid the same number of deaths that overwhelming hospitals and funeral homes in Northeast and Washington State in March and April. Still, three epidemiologists in Florida and Texas expect deaths to continue to increase for at least a few weeks.
"Our cases increased in early June, and now as I look through, you can see the deaths are also a little upward," said Cindy Prins, an epidemiologist at the University of Florida. "At first, a lot of people said, well, it's flat, it's flat. And the concern was there, well, we didn't catch up with the data, and now we're seeing this surge, which is definitely a problem."
State officials in Florida and other states have found that the recent increase in cases is mainly due to younger patients, which is significant as young people are less likely to become seriously ill and die from Covid-19. However, the Covid-19 data shows that these infections are increasingly spreading to older, vulnerable people, which could fuel the increase in deaths, said Prins.
"There are more tests now than they did then, so this may be part of it, but I think we're seeing a real increase in cases in older adults, which makes sense given the overall sharp increase in cases," she added.
The shift from younger to older people is starting to show up in the data, said Dr. Mary Jo Trepka, epidemiologist at Florida International University. Last month, the state reported that the average daily age of newly diagnosed Covid-19 patients reached a record low of 33. On Thursday, however, the average age of newly infected people had risen to 40, according to the state health agency.
Given the rising average age, both Prins and Trepka expect deaths to increase further in the coming weeks. However, Trepka noted that the number of deaths is unlikely to increase at the same pace as New York City, which was hit particularly hard at the start of the US pandemic. Public health officials have since taken measures to protect vulnerable groups, and hospitals have since improved patient care.
"It doesn't appear to be the same rates as April, and I think health care has improved dramatically. Healthcare providers are much better at caring for people with Covid-19," she said. "Still, I think we will see more and more deaths with this large number of cases."
"It's Everywhere" in Texas
According to Spencer Fox, deputy director of the University of Texas-Austin Covid-19 modeling consortium, the deaths caused by Covid-19 in Texas increased slightly about two weeks ago.
"I don't think it's anything unexpected," he said in an interview with CNBC. "I think it was more a question of when we would see an increase than if we would see an increase."
His team's model predicts deaths will not increase as rapidly as in March and April in the northeast and some other parts of the country, he said. But hospitalization has increased at a worrying pace, he said, pointing out that older and vulnerable people are being infected. He added that infections among young people are an "early indicator" of a worsening outbreak that would inevitably affect the more vulnerable groups in the state.
"This resurgence may have started in younger populations. Maybe they were the first to be infected. But these populations are clearly not isolated from the elderly," said Fox. "This is a real resurgence of the epidemic. It's not just limited to younger people who are more likely to survive. It's everywhere."
He added that his team's model predicts that deaths will continue to increase for two weeks, "at least if not longer, depending on how the state really responds."
It is difficult to get a precise understanding of the reality of the outbreak if you only look at the national numbers, said Emperor Levitt, because the progress that places like New York have made in combating the outbreak is offsetting the worrying numbers elsewhere . He added that the number of fatalities was particularly difficult to determine due to the different reporting standards in each country.
He now said that there is an observable increase in deaths, the trend is likely to continue for a few weeks or even months when people who have recently become ill get hospitalized and eventually die.
"I think the pattern of increasing deaths will become clear next week," he said. "And it will no longer be possible to say that the declining mortality rate is somehow a success."