Dr. Anthony Fauci the nation’s top infectious disease expert is once again sounding the alarm over rising numbers of new cases of COVID-19. The greatest numbers are being seen in the states of Florida, Arizona, Texas and California. This is not a “second wave” according to Fauci because the number of new infections have never fallen to a baseline. This is still a continuation of the initial or “first wave” of the disease. Hospitalizations have also risen and intensive care unit (ICU) bed admissions are nearing capacity in a number of locations. Georgia hospitals are warning of a serious situation. In Florida, 43 hospitals have run out of ICU beds. At another 32 Florida hospitals 10% or less of their ICU beds are still available for use according to the Agency for Health Care Administration. Arizona is in a similar situation with only 11% of its ICU beds remaining. Texas requested additional military medical personnel to help with the demand on state facilities in the San Antonio area. Unprecedented hospital admissions in the states of Alabama, California, North and South Carolina and Georgia prompted Dr. Fauci to pronounce that we are “still knee-deep in the first wave of this pandemic.” He largely blamed the rise on states and cities opening up. He succeeded in creating a degree of fear in the public once again by declaring that the phased relaxation of restrictions “has led to a situation where we now have record breaking cases. Within a period of a week and a half, we’ve almost doubled the number of cases. It’s a serious situation that we have to address immediately.” Cases are rising so rapidly in parts of the South and Southwest that contact tracing is no longer possible. In the U.S., there have been 2.94 million confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins University. The number of deaths in the U.S. have now exceeded 130,000.
As depressing as the numbers sound, the dynamics of the disease have changed. Most infections are now occurring in those under the age of 40. This age group tends to have fewer medical illnesses that would increase the risk for severe complications and death. When these younger patients require hospitalization they spend fewer days in the hospital and are less likely to require ventilator support. Although the total number of infections have risen recently, mortality rates have decreased. This is attributable to the younger age of those infected and to improved therapeutic options. As we learn more about the virus and how it attacks the body, doctors are discovering better methods for treating the infection. There is no guarantee that we will have an effective, safe vaccine in the near future. If enough young individuals become infected we may achieve herd immunity long before a vaccine is available for widespread use. Instead of panicking at the rising infection rates, it may ultimately be our saving grace. As New York Governor Cuomo discovered, the elderly are the most vulnerable and must be protected. Facial coverings and social distancing should be strictly enforced around the elderly and those with co-morbidities. This is a threat to certain members of our society (as are many other infections) but humanity will survive despite the fear-mongering of Dr. Doom.