How will Covid-19 in America play out over the coming months ?

US sees record daily coronavirus infections

Yesterday, the US reported a record daily rise in coronavirus cases, with more than 132,540 new infections and 1,248 deaths. That breaks the previous record set just a day earlier. America is the worst-affected nation in the world, with more than 10 million cases and more than 240,000 deaths.

So what is going to happen to the spread of coronavirus during the coming months? President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration isn’t until January 20, 2021. Until then, there are no signs that Trump will give up any levers of power early — if anything, the opposite is true, as Trump now contests the election results. So Trump’s failed response to Covid-19 will continue, unchecked, over the next couple of months.

Winter is coming bringing several issues that could make America’s outbreak even worse: Schools will continue to reopen, the cold will push people into poorly ventilated indoor spaces in which the virus can spread more easily, the holidays will bring families together in potential superspreading events, and a possible flu season could further strain health care systems.

Medical staff members treat a patient in a Covid-19 intensive care unit in Houston, Texas, on October 31.
 Go Nakamura/Getty Images

Trump could, of course, prepare the country for all of this, but this is unlikely. He has spent the past several months actively downplaying the coronavirus, and he has rejected or undermined proven policies, from social distancing to masking to testing and tracing.

Trump now no longer has to worry about the politics around his response, and there is a danger he spends the next few months carrying out the response he truly believes in, without any risk that it could cost him the election. To put it another way, Trump’s loss may unchain Scott Atlas, the controversial adviser Trump has leaned on to justify a hands-off approach to the coronavirus. Atlas has spoken favourably of a “herd immunity” strategy — which experts widely reject because it would likely lead to a catastrophic death toll, but which Trump and Atlas see as a way to avoid measures that can hinder the economy in the short term.

Although I have been in favour of following a strategy of herd immunity as advocated by Professor Sunetra Gupta and The Great Barrington Declaration, it would be a catastrophic mistake if this was implemented at this a time of record numbers of new cases. The key to The Great Barrington approach is “focussed protection” – protecting the elderly and clinically vulnerable whilst the young and healthy return to normal life and economic activity.

If States follow that lead, America’s already soaring Covid-19 cases and deaths will get even worse. All of this will boost the need for comprehensive action starting from Biden’s first day in the Oval Office.

That begins with implementing the policies proven to combat Covid-19, including measures that encourage and enable social distancing to slow overall spread, get people to wear masks to protect themselves and others, and widely deploy testing and tracing to detect new outbreaks and contain them. It also requires empowering science — something that Trump has worked against as he’s contradicted expert advice, including from federal public health agencies. And Biden has to prepare the country for a vaccine, which requires not just finding a safe, effective vaccine but also mounting a vast distribution effort to get doses to hundreds of millions of Americans. Click full article

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