The pandemic spread across the Kansas prairie on Thursday as the United States recorded its eight millionth case of Covid-19.
This milestone was reached just three weeks after the nation recorded 7 million confirmed cases of coronavirus and many of the new infections occurred in Midwestern states that weren’t as badly affected as the northeast and west coasts in the earlier days of Covid-19 Crisis.
But after months of watching the coronavirus spread south and then the sun belt, new Covid-19 cases have gone from a trickle to a torrent in states like Kansas, 5,203 of which were only reported in the past seven days, as the latest numbers from NBC News showed Thursday.
During the same period, Kansas recorded 1
“The numbers are getting worse,” said Dr. Lee Norman, the chief administrator for the state health department, at a news conference at the statehouse on Wednesday.
Kansas is one of several states in the central part of the country that has seen a dramatic increase in new coronavirus cases recently. Public health experts blame a combination of cool weather and a growing reluctance to comply with restrictions intended to stop the spread of the virus.
Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota and Ohio reported record numbers of new cases on Thursday.
“Whether we are in a second wave or the second wave of the first, our current situation is critical, especially outside of well-equipped subway areas,” Dave Dillon, spokesman for the Missouri Hospital Association, told the St. Louis Post shipping.
But when compared to California and Texas, the states with the most cases, the numbers in Kansas are small.
The 69,155 confirmed cases Kansas has recorded since the pandemic began is little more than the 59,603 cases recorded in the United States on Wednesday. And with the number of Covid-19 cases in the country hitting 8 million, Kansas accounts for less than 1 percent of the total.
Still, the death toll in Kansas last week represents about 14 percent of the total of 838 deaths the state has recorded since the coronavirus crisis began.
In other coronavirus news:
- In another sign that the US economic recovery is stalling, initial weekly jobless claims rose to 898,000 last week, the Department of Labor reported. That disappointing number was well above analysts’ expectations of 830,000.
- The herd immunity that President Donald Trump pushed to stop the pandemic is a “dangerous fallacy that is not supported by scientific evidence,” said dozens of scientists from around the world in The Lancet, a leading medical journal.
- Democratic vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris canceled her travel plans after two people involved in the campaign tested positive. Harris himself tested negative, as did presidential candidate Joe Biden.
- Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse, one of the few Republican senators who dared publicly criticize Trump, said in a private appeal with constituents that the president’s pandemic leadership was not “sensible or responsible or right,” the reported Washington Examiner.
- Rhode Island governor Gina Raimondo said trick or treating is allowed but not major Halloween bashes. “If your group is more than 15 people, we’ll close you,” she said.
- The Atlanta Falcons closed their training facility after an employee tested positive. Other NFL teams like the New York Jets and the Tennessee Titans have had to suspend their personal operations for the same reason.
Increasingly, the pandemic is taking a toll on the parts of Kansas that are least prepared for the pandemic – the rural areas, Norman said. Half of the most recent cases were in the most sparsely populated counties in the state.
Dr. Beth Oller, a family doctor in northwest Kansas, said the coronavirus is spreading there because people don’t wear masks and continue to attend weddings, baby showers, birthday parties, and other events where infections can multiply.
When Governor Laura Kelly imposed a five-week stay-at-home order for people in her corner of Kansas this spring, it was “like going to the basement for a tornado that never came,” Oller said.
“Although those of us in public health said, ‘It’s coming! It is coming! We can’t stop being diligent. “You’re getting this pandemic fatigue,” she said in an Associated Press report. “It’s more difficult to keep up this diligence.”
Rural Kansas is also a deep red Trump country, and public health experts said the mixed messages from the White House have also undermined their attempts to get people to put in place proper safety precautions.
Rural Gove County’s Sheriff Allan Weber came down with Covid-19 and was recently released from hospital. When The Associated Press caught up with him last week, Weber was working at a local medical center and was still having difficulty breathing.
But he wasn’t put off, not even when the pulse oximeter, which sets off an alarm when the oxygen level gets too low, beeps.
“It’ll stop here in a minute,” Weber said with a cough and shortness of breath.
There are other Midwestern states where lawmakers, mostly Republicans, are reluctant to mandate masks or tighten public health restrictions.
“I’m not in favor of a mask mandate,” Steve Bakken, Republican mayor of Bismarck, North Dakota, told MSNBC’s Chuck Todd on Thursday. “I think we have to rely on people doing the right thing in the right situations.”
Trump, who recently returned to the campaign after hospitalization for Covid-19, has been criticized for refusing to wear a mask at public events until recently and accused of lying to the public about the threat of the pandemic .
“What I’m doing outside is a big deal,” Trump said Thursday in an interview with Fox Business Network. “And when you look at these people, they really do wear masks.”
Trump’s false statement was not challenged by host Stuart Varney.
Later at a campaign rally in North Carolina, Trump made his first in-depth remarks about his youngest son Barron, who tested positive for the coronavirus but never developed symptoms.
“Barron had it, he recovered so quickly,” said Trump. “I said, wait, how long did it take? They have the strongest immune system, they are better than any of us. They are.”
Most pandemic deaths have been either elderly or frail, but the average age of Covid-19 victims is falling as students return to school. While it is rare for children ages 18 and younger to die from the virus (121 according to the latest government data), they pose a threat to adults as potential carriers of the disease, according to public health experts.
Cornell University researchers have cited Trump as the world’s biggest disseminator of coronavirus misinformation.
While Trump continues to insist that his administration did “phenomenal” work, the US currently accounts for more than a fifth of the world’s 38.6 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 1 million deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University Covid-19 Dashboard.
The US is still the world leader in both categories, but India could soon take the lead in terms of the number of confirmed cases. According to the dashboard, it was 7.3 million on Thursday.