ATLANTA, Ga. (CW69 News at 10/CNN) — Despite hopes for relief this summer, the U.S. is battling a rapid rise of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic — so much so that across parts of the country including Georgia and Florida, contact tracing is no longer possible, according to a health expert.
“The cases are rising so rapidly, that we cannot even do contact tracing anymore. I don’t see how it’s possible to even do that,” Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of tropical medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper Monday.
While new Georgia cases are down from last week’s peak, the level still exceeds the previous peak set in April.
Florida’s new cases are still more than triple it’s April peak.
Despite claims that Florida traces every case of Covid-19, a CNN investigation found that health authorities in Florida, now the nation's No. 1 hotspot for the virus, often fail to do contact tracing https://t.co/7K3tGwQbfB
— CNN (@CNN) July 6, 2020
The rapid rise in cases is considered a surge, not a second wave, because the infection numbers never lowered to where officials hoped they would, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci said in a Facebook and Twitter livestream Monday.
“We are still knee-deep in the first wave of this,” Fauci said.
Fauci says COVID-19 contact tracing is not working well because many Americans, particularly in black and brown communities, do not want to pick up phone calls from government representatives https://t.co/Nj065CIsxp pic.twitter.com/S6tiKNWTi0
— CBS News (@CBSNews) June 26, 2020
The national case count hits new records almost daily, Hotez said. As of Tuesday morning, more than 2.9 million people had been infected and 130,306 people had died from coronavirus, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Though Florida set a record for most new cases in a single day over the weekend, Commissioner of the Florida Department of Education Richard Corcoran announced Monday in an emergency order that its schools will open their doors in August.
But the state is among at least 24 that are pausing or rolling back their reopening plans for the summer considering surging cases.
“Let’s wait and see,” Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said Monday of moving to Phase 3 of his state’s plan, which means the state will keep bars closed and restaurants at 50% capacity. “I know how frustrating this can be, but right now, with this pandemic flaring up in a majority of other states, this is not the time to take a risk.”
‘We are in a free fall’
That flare up can be seen in at least 31 states, where the number of new cases increased from last week, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Those states include: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Washington state, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Only four states have seen improvements in the number of cases since the previous week: Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. The remaining 15 states have been holding steady.
One of the main drivers behind the nearly 3 million cases now could be “silent spreaders,” or people who are asymptomatic or presymptomatic, according to a new study.
The report, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that asymptomatic or presymptomatic cases could be responsible for half of cases.
“We are in free fall,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, chief of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital. “You see the footage of what happened this past weekend. And people are either naive to the influence of their actions, or they’re simply resigned to ignore it.”
After weeks of health officials encouraging the public to wear face masks, at least 35 states along with Washington DC and Puerto Rico have implemented face covering requirements to help mitigate the virus’ spread.
State and local officials test positive
State and local officials have been leading the fight against coronavirus, and some of them have tested positive.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said she has “no idea” how she was exposed, but that she, her husband and one of her children has tested positive. Their cases are among the more than 97,000 cases in Georgia.
At least five California Assembly members tested positive for the virus, leading the state to close its Capitol building in Sacramento, Assembly speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) confirmed to CNN. California has the second highest number of cases in the country at more than 273,000.
The Assembly will remain in recess until further notice to “protect members, staff and the public from exposure,” Rendon added.
Many legislators have tested positive for coronavirus in Mississippi, which now has more than 31,000 cases, said Gov. Tate Reeves. Reeves has been tested for the virus and is awaiting results.
Rising cases threaten hospital capacity
With increased spread comes concerns about exceeding hospitals’ capacity.
Along with 1,214 new cases, Dallas County, Texas, reported a 16% increase in new hospitalizations Monday.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins released a letter urging the governor to implement more statewide restrictions as the state reached its highest number in both categories.
“Think of hospitalizations as the sickest of the sick, the part of the iceberg above the water. In order for the numbers to increase dramatically with hospitalizations, the amount of the iceberg underneath the water must grow exponentially,” Jenkins said.
In Florida, 43 hospitals across 21 counties — including Miami-Dade, Broward, Hillsborough and Orange Counties — have hit capacity and show zero ICU beds available, according to data released by the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA).
In response to President Donald Trump’s claim that 99% of coronavirus cases are “totally harmless,” Dr. Boris Lushniak told Wolf Blitzer Monday on the Situation Room that the hospitalizations tell a different story.
“Yes, some people asymptomatic. Yes, some people have mild cases of disease. But in essence, we also are having a lot of people who are being hospitalized,” said Lushniak, who is dean of the University of Maryland School of Public Health and a former deputy surgeon general.
“These are not harmless cases; this is not a harmless pandemic. And we need to be strong enough to begin correcting the president,” he said.
©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. CNN contributed to the story.