The pandemic shows no sign of slowing and health officials from coast to coast have urged the use of face masks in public places and pleaded with residents to avoid all kinds of social gatherings until the spread of the virus is under control.
As of this week, five states together hold more than 40% of all US infections: California (with the most cases in the country), Florida, Texas, New York and Georgia.
New York, once the country’s epicenter, has been surpassed by several states that have seen spikes in cases in recent months. The state now reports a positivity rate — how many people are testing positive compared to how many were tested — of about 0.93%, according to the governor’s office.
“Despite increasing infection rates across the country and in our region, we continue to see our numbers hold at low levels, all thanks to the hard work of New Yorkers to change their behavior and our data-driven, phased reopening,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement Saturday.
California, reporting more than 7,000 new cases Saturday for a total of more than 545,000, had a statewide positivity rate of about 6% over the past two weeks, according to health officials. Hospitalizations across the state are dropping, and there are now about 5,746 patients in hospitals across the state — down by more than 1,000 people from two weeks ago.
In Texas, the governor extended his disaster declaration in response to coronavirus as the state reported its highest seven-day positivity rate: 19.41%. The previous high, 17.43%, was recorded around mid-July. More than 481,000 infections have been reported statewide and about 7,872 people remain in hospitals.
Thousands gather in small South Dakota city
As the virus still runs rampant across many US communities, one South Dakota city has begun to see visitors pour in for the 80th annual City of Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
The state has so far recorded one of the lowest number of cases with about 9,477 infections, according to the state’s health department.
The event, hosted in the city of about 7,000, has brought in crowds of about 500,000 each year. And while officials say this year will be a scaled-back version, hundreds of thousands of visitors are still expected from all over the country — including hotspots like Florida, Texas and Arizona.
In nearby campgrounds, there will be concerts, races and contests every day. City officials say they have recommended social distancing guidelines and capacity limits for bars and restaurants, but none of that is legally enforcable, the city manager told CNN.
Dr. Carlos del Rio, an infectious disease professor at Emory University, says he’s not worried about the rally itself because it will mostly be outside. Instead, he fears what will happen after-hours, when people go to restaurants, bars and begin congregating in indoor spaces.
“I’m quite concerned that this event could potentially be a disaster,” he said. “There could not only be a lot of transmission there, but a lot of people could get infected there and go back to their home states and take the virus over there.”
The event runs through August 16.
Schools begin welcoming students back
As schools begin reopening for classes, researchers are still working to understand the spread and effects of the virus when it comes to children.
Research has shown older children can transmit coronavirus just as much as adults and another study said children younger than five have a higher viral load from the virus in their noses compared to older children and adults, also raising questions about how likely they are to transmit the virus.
And while some US officials have said an infection poses less risks to younger populations, a 7-year-old boy with no underlying health conditions died in Georgia last week, becoming the youngest victim in the state. Earlier this month, two teenagers died in Florida from coronavirus complications, bringing the total number of minors who have died in relation to the virus in the state to seven.
In New York, which maintains a positivity rate of less than 1%, all school districts across the state were cleared to reopen, Cuomo said Friday, adding that plans may change if infection rates begin spiking again ahead of the scheduled reopenings.
In Georgia, many schools have already reopened.
At least 260 students and eight teachers in the Cherokee County School District were quarantined after multiple students and teachers tested positive for the virus during the first week of school. In a statement on its website, the district reported positive cases in at least 11 students and two staff members. Among them was a second grader who tested positive for the virus after attending the first day of school.
Barrow County Schools announced it would be starting the year virtually after more than 90 staff members were forced to quarantine because they had a confirmed or suspected case of the virus or were exposed to someone who did.