The number of new Covid-19 cases is going up across the Midwest as the temperature is going down, the latest NBC News statistics showed Wednesday.
Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska and Wisconsin have seen a greater than 25 percent increase in coronavirus cases in the last two weeks compared to the two weeks before.
Minnesota has reported more than a thousand new Covid-19 cases for six days in a row, something that hasn’t happened since the start of the pandemic.
Wisconsin set a single day record for coronavirus deaths on Tuesday with 31, the statistics show.
And states like Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota and Wyoming have some of the highest rates of new infections in the country, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.
"Things will get better," Gov Mike DeWine said ahead of the announcement. "But, in all likelihood they will get worse before they get better. We're already seeing that in the trend lines of the last few weeks."
The pandemic has been spreading inward from the coasts and coronavirus testing has increased, but a top public health expert in the region said the change of season and an increased reluctance to take proper safety precautions are behind the troubling trend.
“This has been a general trend and we suspect it has a lot to do with cooler weather forcing people indoors where they congregate without masks,” said Dr. Sadiya Khan, an epidemiologist at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “It’s quite concerning.”
The White House, which has been harshly criticized for its response to a crisis that has claimed more than 217,000 lives out of 7.9 million infections in the United States, appears to share that concern.
President Donald Trump, who returned to the campaign trail this week after coming down with a case of Covid-19, intends to send a surrogate to stump for him in Nebraska.
In other coronavirus news:
- Trump's 14-year-old son, Barron, contracted Covid-19 but did not develop any symptoms and has since tested negative, First Lady Melania Trump revealed Wednesday. She said he first tested negative after she and the president were diagnosed Oct. 1. “My fear came true when he was tested again and it came up positive,” she wrote on the White House web page.
- Earlier, it was revealed that Trish Scalia, the wife of Trump's labor secretary, Eugene Scalia, had tested positive for the coronavirus. Scalia was the latest high profile person to come down with an infection linked to to a Sept. 26 event Trump held in the Rose Garden to introduce Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett, whose confirmation hearings are in their third day.
- Campaigning in Florida, Democratic challenger Joe Biden told a socially distancing group of seniors Tuesday that Trump believes they are "expendable" and that the president's refusal to take Covid-19 seriously has endangered everyone. “While he throws superspreader parties at the White House, while Republicans hug each other, without concern of the consequences, how many of you have been unable to hug your grandkids the last seven months?" Biden asked.
- Trump, however, told a tightly packed group of supporters in Pennsylvania that he now feels "like Superman" and "pulled a page from the Bill Clinton playbook, telling people suffering from the coronavirus: "I feel your pain."
- Your ability to avoid catching Covid-19 or recover from an infection could depend on your blood type, two new studies suggest.
- Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez went into quarantine after learning that Health Secretary Lorenzo González had tested positive for Covid-19. Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee is also in quarantine after a member of his security team tested positive.
- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who outraged Orthodox Jews by imposing a Covid-19 clampdown on their neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Queens and Rockland County, turned the screws again by vowing to withhold funds for schools and local governments in those areas if they fail to enforce public health laws.
- While the U.S. has had the most Covid cases, India is now a close second with 7.2 million reported cases, the latest figures show. Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that starting Saturday an overnight curfew will be imposed in Paris and eight other major cities for the next four weeks to combat a surge in new cases.
Illinois, under the leadership of Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, took aggressive steps early on to contain the spread and was able to keep the coronavirus in check.
But Illinois logged its 9,000 Covid-19 death on Tuesday. And the statewide seven-day average of 2,862 new cases last week was the highest since early May, the figures showed.
Twice last week, Illinois reported over 3,000 new cases in a single day, record numbers for the state.
And Illinois now has a positivity rate of 4.58, which is perilously close to the 5 percent level that the World Health Organization advises local governments to maintain for at least two weeks before they reopen businesses.
That WHO warning, however, hasn’t stopped other states with much higher rates like Florida (11.65 percent) and Texas (7.18 percent) from rapidly shedding restrictions.
It’s not just Chicago that is driving the surge of new Covid-19 cases in Illinois. The rate of new infections in southern Illinois jumped to 8 percent last week, the figures showed.
“As we pause today to mourn these individual and collective losses, may we find strength in the tools we have to protect our communities: wearing a mask, watching our distance, and respecting public health and each other,” Pritzker said in a press release announced the 9,000th death.
But even as Pritzker appealed for the public’s help, he was getting pushback from frustrated restaurant and bar operators like Nick Fosberg who have dutifully taken the state-mandated steps to keep their patrons safe but are now facing the possibility of having to close down again.
"We're following the same rules that were put in place before when dining reopened,” Fosberg, owner of Fozzy’s Bar & Grill outside Rockford, told The Journal Star of Peoria. "We have no live music, no dancing, 6 feet between tables, masks for all of our staff."
In the Chicago suburb of Arlington Heights, the heaters were already cooking in the beer garden outside Cortland’s Garage Tavern & Grill and owner Brian Roginski was praying for the weather to stay mild at least through Christmas.
“We know it’s going to be impossible with January and February,” Roginski told The Daily Herald of Arlington Heights. “It’s going to be cold. That’s how it is in Illinois.”
Wisconsin’s attempts to corral the coronavirus spread have been stymied by months of political trench warfare between the state’s Democratic governor, Tony Evers, and the leaders of the Republican-dominated state Legislature.
The GOP leaders have thwarted Evers' attempts to mandate safety measures by having their allies sue the governor in court. The latest to do so was the powerful tavern lobby, which convinced a judge Wednesday to temporarily block Evers' emergency order to limit capacity inside bars to 25 percent.
Minnesota, Iowa and the Dakotas are still seeing new cases linked to the August motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota. North Dakota reported this week they were running out of intensive care unit hospital beds.
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb extended his state's mask mandate "and did not give an end date," The Indianapolis Star reported.
And in Kansas, rural areas in particular were being ravaged by the virus, local media reported.