Voice

Almost Every U.S. State Is Now Officially a Coronavirus Hot Spot

This is what an utter pandemic catastrophe looks like.

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As of Nov. 12 at 9 p.m. EST. Source: The Covid Tracking Project and Kaiser Family Foundation

The American COVID-19 crisis has reached catastrophic levels. With the White House fixated on election challenges and strange, ominous shake-ups in the Defense Department and national security agencies, the virus is out of control across the country—with 49 states simultaneously classified as hot spots. The spring and summer surges were geographically localized, first in the Northeast and Pacific coast, then in the South and Southwest. With peaks confined geographically, it was possible for an overwhelmed hospital director or governor to reach out to counterparts in less-affected states for help, obtaining doctors, nurses, EMT personnel, laboratory support, equipment, coroners, even morticians. But this time, as the holidays and winter approach, almost every state is simultaneously struck, hospitals are breaking records every day for caseloads, and death counts are rising.

On Thursday, 150,526 new cases were reported—a record-breaking 24 hours. And 1,104 Americans perished that day. And more than 67,000 Americans were in the hospital with COVID-19—another record-breaking statistic.

During New York’s dire April, tens of thousands of health care workers volunteered to pour into the city to help the overwhelmed doctors and nurses, coming not only from other states but also from Europe, Canada, and other parts of the world. This time, however, the coronavirus is simultaneously surging all over Europe and has spread from the United States to Canada and Mexico, leading to a generalized North American crisis.

They’re on their own—each city, county, state, and territory of the United States of America. And as hospitals exceed their capacities and refrigerated trucks line up to receive the dead, the U.S. president and the entire White House are obsessed with overturning the election results and executing changes in the military and national security sectors, actions that are ringing alarms from as politically disparate voices as John Bolton, Bill KristolRep. Jim ClyburnThomas Edsall, ex-CIA Director John BrennanEzra KleinKarl Rove, and Sen. Mark Warner.

President Donald Trump’s sweeping personnel changes in the Pentagon and refusal so far to concede the election to Joe Biden have raised fears that he intends to soon act on previous threats to fire or reassign Food and Drug Administration head Steve Hahn, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, White House Coronavirus Task Force members Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx, and other health officials vital to the COVID-19 fight. The president has not attended a task force meeting since April, after a series of horrible press conference blunders on his part, and the group’s gatherings have, insiders say, become perfunctory. On Monday, Vice President Mike Pence convened the task force’s most recent gathering, which focused on distribution of medical products and set no new strategies for tackling the soaring spread of the coronavirus. The task force did issue a warning that the pandemic is “accelerating” nationwide.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 rages on. To date, the Trump administration has not allowed any contact between the Biden transition team and the White House or executive branch agencies, including those responsible for the epidemic response. A Biden transition team and a coronavirus task force have assembled and are preparing for after he takes office on Jan. 20, 2021. But until then, a very distracted Trump and his administration are in charge of the pandemic response. White House staff have their hands full, as several have been quarantined due to another coronavirus superspreader event—an election night party indoors in the East Room. Several people contracted the virus at the event, including Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson; chief of staff Mark Meadows; White House political director Brian Jack; David Bossie, who was involved in Trump’s election challenges; and Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani’s guest for the evening, Healy Baumgardner.

The numbers tell the COVID-19 story. Assembled above is a status report, based on information from the COVID Tracking Project, and the Kaiser Family Foundation, with guidance from former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden and Biden campaign health advisor Larry Brilliant. Kaiser has for months mapped the United States, designating hot spots of out-of-control transmission with the color red: Now, almost all 50 states are red. And, crucially, the pace of daily new cases and cumulative totals is quickening. If unabated, these tallies will surely exceed 2,000 new deaths per day, 400,000 total deaths, and 12 million cumulative cases by Christmas.

Laurie Garrett is a former senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations and a Pulitzer Prize winning science writer.