A Harvard Doctor Just Shared a Dark Coronavirus Prediction for the Fall

The vastly different coronavirus trajectories among states are painting a divided picture.

Recent COVID-19 figures show that the virus is surging through certain areas of the country at an alarming rate. In fact, according to an internal White House memo, one-third of all states are currently considered "red zones," where infection rates and/or positive test results are spiking. Many of those states are across the Sun Belt, but another area of the country is currently seeing their case numbers remain stable: the Northeast. And as one Harvard doctor told The New York Times, by the fall, the U.S. will be like "two countries" experiencing coronavirus in very different ways.

In a recent interview, Ashish Jha, MD, MPH, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute (HGHI), compared the relatively large differences between the current condition of New York and the New England states versus states like Florida, Texas, and Southern California, which are currently seeing unprecedented coronavirus case spikes.

But he warned that the worst may be yet to come, especially as flu season approaches in late fall. "I would not be surprised if what we have is two countries, one which is neck-deep in coronavirus, its hospitals overwhelmed, and another part of the country that is struggling a little, but largely doing OK with their economy."

Intensive care in the hospital amid COVID-19

Data released by HGHI appears to support the idea that the divide between the Northeast and the rest of the country is widening. Their color-coded COVID risk map, which ranks states and counties based on new daily cases per 100,000 people, shows that the very bottom of the list is comprised almost entirely of states from Pennsylvania northward. The only outlier states in terms of geography are West Virginia (6.1 new cases per 100,000 people) and Hawaii, which barely trails Vermont as the lowest rate in the U.S. of 1.4 new cases per 100,000 people.

The Northeastern states aren't without their fair share of damage from the pandemic, however. Massachusetts posted the worst unemployment rate in the country in June at 17.4 percent. And New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island have overall reported the most COVID-19 deaths per capita in the country, with more than 61,000 combined, The Times reports. But the region seemingly has the worst of the pandemic behind them in terms of new cases for the time being.

Jha believes the states that are currently successfully battling the virus are taking note of other states' experiences–especially as Massachusetts and Rhode Island reported a slight uptick in infection rates. "I think they're watching what's happening in the South and they're horrified," he told The Times. And for more on why certain areas are faring so much worse than others, check out States That Reopened These Places Early Saw Huge COVID Spikes, Says Study.


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Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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