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Covid cases climbing again in U.S. while Fauci warns 'we're not in a good place'

In other coronavirus news: Total number of deaths worldwide passes 1 million, CDC chief rips one of Trump's favorite Covid-19 advisers.
Wisconsin's Capital City As Battleground States Shaped By Virus-Fueled Downturn
State Street in Madison, Wis., last week. Gov. Tony Evers declared another public health emergency after new cases in Wisconsin spiked by more than 100 percent.Lauren Justice / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Covid-19 cases are on the rise again across the United States as more and more states have loosened restrictions put into place to slow the spread of the killer virus, NBC News figures showed Monday.

On Friday, the U.S. logged 55,759 cases — the largest single day total in a month. And the troubling development comes as the global death toll from the virus passed 1 million with the U.S. continuing to account for over a fifth of those fatalities.

“We’re not in a good place,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases, warned Monday on ABC's “Good Morning America.”

“There’s certainly parts of the country that are doing well,” Fauci added. “But … there are states that are starting to show an uptick in cases and even some increases in hospitalization in some states. And, I hope not, but we very well might start seeing increases in deaths.”

And as the weather gets colder, more people are heading inside where the danger of getting infected increases significantly, Fauci said.

“You don’t want to be in a position like that as the weather starts getting cold,” Fauci said. “So we really need to intensify the public health measure that we talk about all the time.”

The U.S. has been averaging an “unacceptably high” 40,000 new cases per day, Fauci has said.

“We have got to get it down,” he said. “I would like to see it 10,000 or less.”

Forty states and territories have seen an increase over the last two weeks as of Saturday, just days after the U.S. logged its 7 millionth confirmed coronavirus case.

Wyoming was the nation’s new hot spot with a 128 percent jump in new cases followed by Utah (111 percent), Wisconsin (104 percent) and Colorado (97 percent).

In Wisconsin, state health officials reported its biggest daily number of infections on Saturday since the pandemic began with 2,533 confirmed new Covid-19 cases.

The new figure came just days after Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, declared a new public health emergency over the objections of local Republicans who want to ease the safeguards.

“We are facing a new and dangerous phase of the Covid-19 pandemic here in Wisconsin,” Evers said in his order. “We are seeing an alarming increase in cases across our state, especially on campus. We need folks to start taking this seriously, and young people especially — please stay home as much as you are able, skip heading to the bars, and wear a mask whenever you go out. We need your help to stop the spread of this virus, and we all have to do this together.”

Fauci said he was especially concerned about Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday announced the reopening of all bars and restaurants — with no restrictions — even though the state continues to report thousands of new cases per day, although that number has dropped significantly since July.

The World Health Organization advises governments that before reopening they maintain a testing positivity rate of 5 percent or lower for 14 days. Florida’s rate is currently 10.62 percent, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.

By contrast, the positivity rate in New York — a state that was hit hardest in the early days of the pandemic and continues to lead the nation in Covid-19 fatalities with 33,971 — was a little over 1 percent as of Monday, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

But that represented a small but significant increase over recent days and was yet another worrisome sign that the virus was not completely under control in New York.

In the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, the city health department reported that the coronavirus was spreading at “an alarming rate,” mostly in neighborhoods populated largely by Hasidic Jews, some of whom have been resistant to social distancing and mask wearing mandates.

Fauci’s dire warnings about the coronavirus crisis have repeatedly angered President Donald Trump, who was caught on tape privately telling journalist Bob Woodward in February that Covid-19 was “deadly stuff” but has since then repeatedly downplayed the dangers of a virus that has killed 205,940 people in the U.S. as of Monday, the newest figures showed.

Trump, who has questioned the need for wearing masks and social distancing and rarely does so himself in public, has also been accused of dispensing false information to the American public that he’s gleaned from political appointees who share his suspicion of leading medical experts like Fauci.

One of Trump’s most trusted Covid-19 advisers is Dr. Scott Atlas, who was brought on the White House coronavirus task force in August even though he has no expertise in public health or infectious diseases.

“Everything he says is false,” Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the embattled federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said of Atlas in a telephone conversation made in public on a commercial airline that was overhead by an NBC News reporter.

In other coronavirus developments:

  • Trump announced a plan to distribute 150 million rapid Covid-19 testing kits made by Abbott Laboratories "in the coming weeks, very, very soon." "This will be more than double the number of tests already performed ," the president insisted. The announcement came day before Trump was to face off against Joe Biden in the first presidential debate. But the kit order was part of a $760 million contract the administration announced last month on the final day of the Republican National Convention. About the size of a credit card, it does not require special computer equipment to process and delivers results in about 15 minutes. The downside is they are less accurate than other testing methods, the Associated Press reported. Trump has also repeatedly claimed -- without evidence -- that a vaccine would be delivered before Election Day.
  • While the aged and infirm constitute most of the new cases and fatalities, “the incidence of Covid-19 in the United States is now highest among young adults ages 20 to 29, who from June to August accounted for more than 20 percent of all confirmed cases,” NBC News reported, citing the latest CDC figures. And adults ages 30 to 39 made up the second-largest group of cases. “We’re seeing a really rising incidence of Covid-19 in young people, and that’s in part due to activity over the summer, and obviously we’re all very worried about this as they come back to colleges,” Dr. Scott Solomon, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, told NBC News. While most young people don’t wind up in the hospital, those that do have a “really high risk for these adverse outcomes,” Solomon said. “It is not trivial.”

  • Speaking of young people, teenagers are twice as likely to be diagnosed with Covid-19 than younger kids, according to a new report released by the CDC. Focusing on 277,285 infections among school-age children between March 1 and mid-September, it found that 63 percent were kids over age 12. Why? It’s not clear. “It may be that parents have more control over younger children, while teens may be more likely to mix socially, increasing the risk of spread,” NBC News reported. What is clear is that Black and Hispanic kids who catch Covid-19, especially ones with underlying conditions, tend to get sicker. Meanwhile, the overall number of pediatric Covid-19 cases in the U.S. has soared past 600,000, according to data from the American Association of Pediatrics that was also released Monday.

  • Businesses that have been hit with Covid-19 infections could soon be socked again — this time with billions of dollars in lawsuits from workers who caught the bug on the job and wound up infecting relatives. The first of what could be a flood of wrongful death “take-home” lawsuits has been filed by the daughter of an Illinois woman named Esperanza Ugalde. Ugalde’s daughter alleges she was infected by her husband, Ricardo, who contracted the illness while working at the Aurora Packing Co. meat processing plant. Ricardo Ugalde worked "shoulder to shoulder" on the company's processing line in April and the company failed to warn employees or adopt any infection prevention measures, the lawsuit charges. Up to 9 percent of the U.S. coronavirus deaths so far are believed to stem from “take-home infections” and could wind up costing businesses up to $21 billion if and when the number of U.S. fatalities reached 300,000, Reuters reported.

  • While the U.S. awaits the much-dreaded second wave of Covid-19, up in Canada the top provincial leader in Ontario said the second round of the pandemic is already pounding their province. "We know that this wave will be more complicated, more complex," Premier Doug Ford said. "It will be worse than the first wave we faced earlier this year. But what we don’t know yet, is how bad the second wave will be.” Ontario recorded 700 new cases of Covid-19 on Monday. That is a small number compared to the daily totals in U.S. states like Florida or Texas, but it's the biggest single-day increase ever reported in Ontario. Canada, which has a population of 37.6 million (slightly less than California) andone of the world's best health care systems, has recorded 156,502 cases of Covid-19 and 9,321 deaths since the start of the pandemic. That's roughly the same number of cases Alabama has reported and slightly fewer deaths than have been recorded in Massachusetts, according to NBC News numbers.