While the US may have recorded a new record of 60,000 cases in one day, the good news is that COVID-19 deaths have been trending downward.  Unfortunately, experts are pointing to warning signs that indicate a major spike is just ahead.

While it’s great that the number of deaths is lower than what we had back in March, it could partly be due to the fact that right now, more younger people are getting sick.  And they’re less likely to die.  But, here’s the thing, younger people likely don’t live in a bubble.  And they can and do interact with older folks.  And we know that on average, it takes 5 days for someone who’s infected to start feeling ill.  For some people, symptoms may take 14 days to appear.  Then, it can take weeks, even months from the time someone was first infected, to when they actually pass away.  And right now, with COVID cases skyrocketing, especially in states like Arizona, Florida and Texas, it’s very possible that in time, we’ll see a spike in deaths as well.

What are the warning signs that a potential major spike is up ahead?

If you look at the number of tests that are coming back positive, the percentage is really high.  So what that means, is when you look at a group of people that are getting tested, more of them actually have the virus than what we’ve seen in the past.  And that can indicate that more people will end up in the hospital.  We’ve already seen hospitalizations rising in at least 22 states.  If you look at Florida alone, at least 56 intensive care units are already filled, they have reached capacity.  So a lot of people are seriously sick right now.  And what learned from when New York was a hotspot, is that deaths do lag behind hospitalizations.  So it would not be surprising to see death rates jump in the coming weeks and months ahead of us.

Is it possible that the lower death rate could be because people are now aware of the symptoms and seek treatment sooner?

That is certainly a possibility, more people are aware that COVID can be dangerous and seek medical help sooner.   There are other potential reasons too.  For instance, early in the pandemic, a lot of long-term care facilities were unprepared – they were hit hard and many older folks died.  Now, there are safety guidelines and policies in place to protect those that live or work at these places. Also, treatment has improved.  And hospitals are more experienced and have become better at treating those who develop severe symptoms.  Now, it’s important to note that while research and the medical community have made great improvements in the last few months, and the death rates are down, this does not mean it’s time to let our guard down.  Please stay vigilant and continue practicing safety precautions like wearing a mask and social distancing.