An orange biohazard tag hangs from a body bag in an isolated refrigerated unit set aside for bodies infected with coronavirus at the Cook County morgue in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
An orange biohazard tag hangs from a body bag in an isolated refrigerated unit set aside for bodies infected with coronavirus at the Cook County morgue in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

The number of dead, infected, and unemployed Americans have all increased this week

The United States surpassed four million confirmed coronavirus cases this week, marking yet another dark milestone in the nation’s widening outbreak.

And the outbreak is spreading more quickly. It only took America 15 days to get from 3 million to 4 million cases, while it took 28 days to go from 2 million to 3 million cases. The speed and spread of the outbreak only means more hospitalizations and a rising death toll, and further illustrates the dire need for better infection mitigation efforts and a vaccine. 

Here are the latest non-political coronavirus updates Americans should know about the pandemic, in no particular order: 

The U.S. hits 1,000 daily deaths—yet again.

In a week of unfortunate milestones, the country saw more than 1,000 deaths recorded in 24 hours on Tuesday, June 21, for the first time in more than a month. And that trend has held for three days straight, with more than 1,000 deaths reported on Wednesday and Thursday. The number of deaths per day had been decreasing from a peak of more than 2,000 deaths per day in mid-April, but that trend reversed as infections starting increasing again.

There are more hospitalizations today than at the beginning of the pandemic. 

The country hasn’t seen the current level of COVID-19 hospitalizations at any other point during the pandemic. On July 22, 59,638 Americans were in hospitals due to the deadly disease, topping the previous high of 59,539 people hospitalized when the epicenter was in New York, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

The true number of total infections is up in the air.

More than four million Americans have been infected so far in the pandemic—but that only covers the people who have actually been tested. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), released this week, found the number of those infected may be as many as six to 12 times higher than the current number of recorded cases. Still, the agency said a majority of Americans are at risk of contracting the virus. On top of that, the turnaround in test results is lengthening—with some areas of the country experiencing weeks-long waits—and that’s playing a part in the spread of the virus. In fact, the actual number of cases is also outpacing even an expanded amount of testing in the U.S. 

COVID-19 is expected to become a leading cause of death for 2020. 

The World Health Organization said the deadly disease stemming from the novel coronavirus is on track to become a leading cause of death globally within a few months. And the CDC agrees: “We know that based on the number of COVID-19 deaths so far in 2020, it will end up as a top 10 leading cause of death but won’t know exactly how high it will rank until next year,” CDC mortality statisticians told CNN in a statement

Los Angeles County’s public health director said its local outbreak is making coronavirus deadlier than the flu, and could soon become the second reason of death in the city. California also surpassed New York for the most recorded infections in the U.S.

Former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) chief Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC that the country could see 300,000 deaths by the end of the year if the situation doesn’t change—effectively double the number of deaths the U.S. has currently. 

Mask mandates can improve death predictions.  

A model frequently used by the White House to predict the number of deaths caused by COVID-19 projected that the U.S. will see more than 224,000 deaths by November. But as more states and cities have implemented face mask requirements, like Washington D.C., the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation predicted that 5,000 fewer people would die. The group also said 34,000 lives could be saved from now to November if 95% of Americans wore face masks when leaving their homes. 

More studies highlight those who have heightened COVID-19 risk. 

About 40% of American adults have an underlying health condition that would make them susceptible to experiencing severe COVID-19 symptoms or complications, according to a new study. The agency also found that pregnant women sick with coronavirus have a higher risk of being hospitalized than those who aren’t expecting. Cancer patients with COVID-19 are at further risk of death by 16 times, according to another study done with the FDA. 

Further research presents some level of clarity on reinfection. 

After further research, experts say not to rule out the possibility of getting reinfected, but say it’s not likely. And they said alarming reports of patients getting sick a second time or cases of “drawn out” experiences of being sick with coronavirus may be due to patients’ unique immune systems or the number of antibodies dropping, making it feel like they were infected again.

It was a busy week for vaccine development. 

Three vaccines under development have shown that they may bring about the immune reactions needed to help patients fend off COVID-19. They include experimental vaccines by the University of Oxford with AstraZeneca, Pfizer with BionTech, and CanSino, following positive news by Moderna last week. The Trump administration penned a major $1.95 billion deal with Pfizer to secure 100 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine, along with a clause allowing for the purchase of another 500 million doses. Organizations behind the vaccines in development say they need to undergo larger clinical trials to make sure they’re safe for humans and actually effective against coronavirus. 

The race is on to decide whether to open schools.

The new school year is weeks away for some school districts in the country, and there isn’t clear federal guidelines on if schools should proceed as normal. So far, the largest school systems in the country have a mix of policies ranging from online schooling to hybrid models that include some in-person classes. 

The CDC issued new guidelines Thursday, advocating for schools to reopen, but ultimately left it to local governments to make the final call on exactly how they do that. “If there is substantial, uncontrolled transmission, schools should work closely with local health officials to make decisions on whether to maintain school operations,” the CDC guidelines said. “There is mixed evidence about whether returning to school results in increased transmission or outbreaks.” 

Unemployment continues to climb. 

Another 1.4 million Americans filed for jobless benefits in the last week, marking a climb from the previous week of 1.3 million claims. It’s also the 18th week in a row where the U.S. has seen more than one million unemployment applications.