United Church of Christ – Wider Church Ministries
Humanitarian Development Team
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Daily Briefing
Barbara T. Baylor, MPH – Temporary Health Liaison
Five States Where COVID-19 Cases are Rising Sharply
In Best Life, an online news source, Richard Evans shares startling facts on five states that have reopened even though COVID-19 cases are rising sharply. Here is a summary of this article.
Given that many U.S. states have started reopening, it might seem as though the COVID-19 pandemic is already over. While it’s true that there are encouraging signs, such as the fact that the numbers of infections are going down in most states, there's still no coronavirus vaccine and scientists are unsure about the level of immunity patients have after recovering from the virus.
Unfortunately, numbers are continuing to grow in certain areas across the United States. Based on the five biggest week-to-week percentage increases for the week ending May 17, here are the states where COVID-19 cases are rising most sharply. Notice how much the numbers of cases subsequently have risen in each state from May 17 to May 20.
1. Tennessee: 32.9 percent rise
With 2,403 new cases, bringing the total to 17,388, Tennessee saw a 32.9 percent rise in coronavirus cases over the course of one week, according to Reuters. The New York Times (as of May 20) has the number of cases at nearly 18,490, with the majority of cases in metropolitan areas like Nashville, Memphis and Knoxville. There also have been high per-capita infection rates in Trousdale, Bledsoe, and Lake counties. Tennessee began phase one of its reopening plan in late April. The second phase of the reopening plan will begin next week and includes amusement parks, theaters and large museums.
2. Louisiana: 25.3 percent rise
For the week ending May 17, COVID-19 cases in Louisiana rose 25.3 percent, per Reuters, with an added 2,832 cases bringing the total to 34,432. According to The New York Times, that number (as of May 20) is closer to 35,500. The outbreaks have centered around the bigger cities, including New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Shreveport. Louisiana began the first phase of reopening on May 15 and expects Phase 2 to begin in early June.
3. Texas: 21.8 percent rise
Texas's additional 8,915 cases - bringing the total to 47,784 - meant a 21.8 percent increase, according to the Reuters report. The New York Times (as of May 20) says the total number of cases is over 51,000. The county with the highest per capita number of cases is Potter, which has 1,774 infections per 100,000 people. The largest number of cases overall, however, is in Harris County, where Houston is located. Following its biggest one-day rise in COVID-19 cases, Texas plans to begin major reopenings throughout the state May 22. Restaurants will be allowed to increase capacity to 50 percent, from 25 percent now. Bars, wine tasting rooms and craft breweries can open at a 25 percent capacity.
4. North Carolina: 20.9 percent rise
North Carolina saw a 20.9 percent rise in COVID-19 cases, per Reuters, with an additional 3,748 cases bringing the total in the state to 18,512. Those cases as of May 20 top 20,100, as The New York Times reports, with most in Mecklenburg County (where Charlotte is located), Wake County (where Raleigh is), and Durham County. Per capita, there are also clusters in the smaller counties of Wayne and Chatham. North Carolina will begin the second phase of reopening by the end of the week.
5. Michigan: 18.3 percent rise
Of these five states, Michigan had the largest number of cases overall, with 51,142 as of May 17. That was an 18.3 percent increase in cases, with 4,004 added, Reuters reported. The number of cases is now closer to 52,300, according to The New York Times (May 20). Most cases are clustered around Detroit, with the city's county, Wayne, accounting for more than 19,000 of the cases. On May 18, plans were outlined for a phased reopening beginning with Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula, areas that have not been hit as hard by COVID-19.
While there seems to be no clear path for how to reopen, what is clear is that we need to need consider how we ramp up testing and increase testing sites as we wait for a vaccine.
According to a new analysis by Harvard researchers and STAT, a publication focused on medicine, health and scientific discovery, more than half of U.S. states will have to - and should - significantly step up their COVID-19 testing to even consider starting to relax stay-at-home orders after May 1.
The United States is now trying to move beyond its months-long COVID-19 testing debacle - faulty tests, shortages of tests and guidelines that excluded many people who should have been tested to mitigate the outbreak. As it does, it is at risk of fumbling the next challenge: testing enough people to determine which cities and states can safely reopen and stay open. Doing so will require the ability to catch reappearances of COVID-19 before it again spreads uncontrollably.