White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx said on Sunday she was “deeply concerned” about an increase in cases of the deadly contagion after the Thanksgiving holiday.
“If you look at the second wave, we had less than 25,000 cases a day, we had a lot less mortality. We are entering this post-Thanksgiving wave with three, four and ten times more illnesses across the country, ”Birx said on CBS’s“ Face the Nation ”.
She added, “We are deeply concerned about what may happen after Thanksgiving.”
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The United States passed the grim milestone on Friday, with 90,481 patients in a medical facility and more than 6,000 of them on ventilators, according to the COVID Tracking Project. That number dropped over the weekend.
Experts warn that coronavirus test figures that have guided much of the country’s response to the pandemic are likely to be erratic over the next week, as fewer people are tested over Thanksgiving weekend and the sites of test observe shorter hours.
The result could be a potential drop in reported infections that give the illusion that the spread of the virus is abating when in fact the numbers say little about the nation’s stance in the fight against COVID-19. The number of Americans who tested positive exceeded 13 million on Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University.
A similar pattern takes place over many weekends. Since some testing centers, laboratories and state offices are closed on Saturdays and Sundays, the number of COVID cases often drops every Sunday and Monday, peaking on Tuesday.
Johns Hopkins University reported a high of more than 2 million tests a few days before Thanksgiving as people prepared to travel, but that number had fallen to less than 1.2 million tests on Thanksgiving Day. That latter number, along with the positive case numbers, which had dropped by about a third Friday, could be adjusted as more results are returned.
Experts are concerned about how people might interpret the situation after the long weekend, especially if it takes a few weeks for Thanksgiving exhibits to show up in the test data.
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Cities and states typically use the number of hospitalizations and intensive care units, which are behind the reporting of virus cases, to determine when to increase or ease restrictions and public health recommendations. But the public is more likely to watch the number of tests or the number of cases, which could be misleading, said Dr Leana Wen, a professor at George Washington University, and waiting for hospitals to be overwhelmed is risky.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, which go away within two to three weeks. For some – especially the elderly and people with existing health problems – it can cause more serious illnesses, including pneumonia and death.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.