This Is Why the U.S. Is "Losing the War" With Coronavirus, Doctor Warns
"The virus will take advantage of any opening you give it," explains one infectious disease doctor.
For a brief shining moment at the end of May, Americans may have had hope that the COVID-19 pandemic was behind us. But by mid-June, the coronavirus started surging in some southern and western states. Now, just a few short weeks later, 40 out of 50 U.S. states are seeing new COVID case numbers climb again. "Put simply, we are losing the war with the SARS-CoV-2 virus," Mark Kortepeter, MD, an infectious disease doctor and professor of epidemiology at University of Nebraska Medical Center, wrote for Forbes.
According to Kortepeter, the "increases in new cases of infection are not surprising." As he sees it, states that reopened more aggressively are seeing COVID surges, while "the states in the northeast that were hammered during the first wave are being a bit more cautious and seeing declining or stable numbers of cases."
Currently, the states in the most "critical" COVID situations—according to data collected by Covid Act Now—are Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Missouri, and South Carolina, most of which reopened at the end of April or beginning of May.
Kortepeter compared reopening too quickly amid the pandemic to speeding down a highway. "[If] a car in front of you stops, you will put your foot on the brakes. If you let up on the brakes too soon, you will crash," he writes. "This is what has been occurring across the country. As businesses reopen, they have let up on the brakes. If it occurs too quickly, a 'crash' is inevitable."
The doctor, who also previously studied the Ebola virus, says a virus has one purpose: to reproduce. "It is programmed to hijack your cells to crank out offspring, which then infect others," he writes. "If you let up on the brakes, the virus will take advantage of any opening you give it."
Recently, many Americans have given coronavirus the opportunity to do just that, Kortepeter says. "If you gather with others, whether for a political rally, a protest, a drink at the local bar, a beach party with friends, in a nursing home, or in a meatpacking plant, the virus will exploit any vulnerabilities," he writes. "The only real control we have is our own personal behavior."
So, how does Kortepeter recommend changing your behavior? Well, he says to weigh the risk of every activity you engage in. The riskiest, he says, involve these five things:
- Being around a lot of people
- Being indoors
- Not wearing masks
- Being physically close to people
- And spending lengthy amounts of time in places that meet those four criteria
The risk factors he points out align with the measures many states with COVID outbreaks are taking to reduce the spread of the virus. For example, Texas and Florida have shut down indoor bars and restaurants, while Arizona shuttered bars, gyms, theaters, and water parks. On top of that, masks are now required when out in public in four more states as of July 3. While California and Texas recently joined the list, the six aforementioned "critical" states still do not mandate that citizens wear masks across the board.
"Hoping that this problem will go away is not a plan," Kortepeter warns. "By ignoring the problem, the chance of our getting back to 'normal' gets further and further away."
He added: "Everyone can do their part to make a difference by acknowledging their risk and taking measures to reduce that risk." And for behavior to be wary of, check out Most COVID-19 Patients Did This One Thing Before Getting Sick, Study Finds.