Household gatherings have become a “major vector” of coronavirus spread, said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on Friday, the day the United States recorded the most new COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began.
At least 82,600 new cases were reported on Friday. According to the New York Times, there has been a 40% rise in COVID-related hospitalizations in the last week, and at least 14 states have set hospitalization records.
“This is being driven by individual behaviors at this point,” Azar told CNN. “We’ve got to keep focused on washing our hands, watching our distance and wearing our face coverings when we can’t watch our distance and in particular being careful in household gatherings. This has become a major vector of disease spread.” Read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had Coronavirus.
Small gatherings drive “distressing” surge
Azar’s comments about the source of the surge echo assessments made by other health officials recently.
“Unfortunately we’re seeing a distressing trend here in the United States,” said Jay Butler, the CDC’s deputy director for infectious diseases, about the rise in cases on Wednesday. He attributed it partially to cooler weather. “Smaller, more intimate gatherings of family, friends and neighbors may be driving transmission as well, especially as they move indoors.”
Today, the surge is more widespread. The last time the U.S. hit a case peak—76,533 on July 17—four states were responsible for 40,000 cases: Florida, California, Arizona and Texas, the Washington Post noted. On Friday, 11 states contributed to that same number of cases. In the last two weeks, 24 states have broken their records for daily new caseloads.
“I recognize that we are all getting tired of the impact that COVID-19 has had on our lives. We get tired of wearing masks, but it continues to be as important as it’s ever been, and I would say it’s more important than ever as we move into the fall season,” said Butler.
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Thanksgiving may be a superspreader event
Officials have encouraged Americans to rethink Thanksgiving plans to protect relatives who may be particularly vulnerable to the virus.
Last week, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, called Thanksgiving gatherings “a risk.”
“Given the fluid and dynamic nature of what’s going on right now in the spread and the uptick of infections, I think people should be very careful and prudent about social gatherings,” he said. “Particularly when members of the family might be at a risk because of their age or their underlying condition … you may have to bite the bullet and sacrifice that social gathering.”
“COVID fatigue” may also be driving the increase in cases, as Americans tire of social restrictions and become more lax about best practices to prevent infection, despite the fact that no vaccine or cure is in sight.
“Simple things that we all could be doing: Wear your mask, keep that six-foot distance, and don’t congregate indoors, whatever you do, and wash your hands,” said Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said on NPR’s “Morning Edition” Tuesday. “People are tired of it, and yet the virus is not tired of us,” he said.
As for yourself, it bears repeating: Do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19 in the first place: Mask, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.