Earlier this month, the World Health Organization reported the highest single-day increase since the start of the pandemic: 136,000 new infections on June 7. (The tally by Johns Hopkins University has slightly different figures.) Days later, the United States surpassed 2 million confirmed cases, cementing its place at the top of the confirmed infections ranking.
Overall, more than 7.3 million people worldwide have tested positive for the coronavirus and more than 413,000 people have been confirmed to have died of covid-19. And those are just the infections and deaths we know about.
Even if the recent surge in confirmed numbers may be due in part to increases in the availability of testing, the virus is nowhere near going away, experts say. As early hot spots begin to recover, the epicenters of the pandemic shift. Amid a widespread relaxation in restrictions, from Israel to Iran to South Korea to China, new clusters have formed.
Three months after much of the world shut down, the United States, Brazil, Russia and India are reporting the highest numbers of new daily cases.
What began in Washington and New York states has come for Arizona, Florida and Texas. Stay-at-home orders helped slow the initial spread as testing lagged. But states have largely lifted measures, and on Sunday, both Alabama and South Carolina hit single-day records in new confirmed cases. Hospitals in Houston are reporting record numbers of patients.
Public health experts warn that states moving to reopen too fast could lead to fresh round of infections. Numbers so far indicate that has been the case. Coupled with the masses of people who have marched together in protests against racism and police violence, the coming weeks could see further increases.
Being outdoors at a distance from others, wearing a mask and washing hands, scientists say, are among the best preventive measures. At the same time, experts are already warning about the winter, when the flu hits hospitals, schools and workplaces, compounding stress on the system.
The virus spread through Asia. Then it surged in Europe. Now Latin America is the center of the global pandemic, according to the WHO. Even countries in South America that were quick to shut down, such as Peru and Chile, are seeing infections rise as they ease their restrictions.
But Brazil — where the federal government, led by far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, has downplayed the virus — never went into a complete lockdown. Instead, governors and mayors at their own discretion closed schools and shops as the virus kept expanding its reach and the president kept belittling its severity. What began as a cluster among rich Brazilians with the resources to travel has turned into a crisis hitting neglected poor and indigenous Brazilians hardest.
Now, as the above graph shows, Brazil’s outbreak is still widening. The country has confirmed more than 42,000 covid-19 deaths and more than 867,000 cases.
In mid-March, Russian President Vladimir Putin boasted that the coronavirus, then wreaking havoc across Europe, wasn’t a problem for him back at home. Months later, Russia has the third-highest number of confirmed cases and among the fastest-growing outbreaks worldwide.
Given trajectories elsewhere, that’s not much of a surprise: Russia’s shutdowns, which it is easing, helped to slow but not stop the virus’s spread. But what is “difficult to understand,” WHO expert Mike Ryan said during a briefing last week, is how Russia has maintained such a low mortality rate — just over 7,000 confirmed deaths — in tandem with rising infections. Doctors and nurses have been speaking out, despite the danger of doing so in the repressive state, about dire conditions in hospitals.
In a rebuke to the official narrative, Russian officials last week issued revisions that raised some death tolls for April and May. The virus, after all, is immune to Putin’s usual tactics for maintaining control.
India imposed one of the world’s strictest shutdowns on its more than 1.3 billion people in March. By May, the country started to lift restrictions.
But even with strict restrictions in place, India’s case numbers continued to rise. That’s because India hasn’t yet been able to flatten its curve, with the shutdowns succeeding only somewhat in slowing the rate of the virus’s spread.
Some 99 percent of the hospital beds in Mumbai, a city of 12 million people, are filled. Delhi’s chief minister warned last week that the number of cases there could reach 500,000 by July, up from the city’s current 35,000 confirmed infections. Sick people already struggle to find an open hospital bed.