Covid-19 cases increasing in some US states as they reopen

By Susana Samhan

Washington, May 21 (efe-epa).- All 50 US states have already taken measures to ease their coronavirus quarantine measures, but some of them – including Texas, Maryland and North Carolina – are seeing a resurgence in cases, although doubts exist about how those cases are being counted.

The US is the global center of the pandemic, with 1.5 million confirmed coronavirus cases so far and about 94,000 deaths, according to the ongoing unofficial tally being kept by The Johns Hopkins University.

According to figures from the state health department in Texas, one of the first states to resume economic activities, over the past two days there has been a spike in new coronavirus cases, with 1,219 being detected on Tuesday and 1,411 on Wednesday, compared with figures below 1,000 on the two previous days.

On Monday, Texas moved into a new phase in dealing with the coronavirus by easing certain restrictions on economic activities.

Maryland is another state showing a similar profile, with 1,208 new virus cases on Thursday, 777 on Wednesday and 1,784 on Tuesday, the latter being the largest number of daily cases reported in the state since the start of the pandemic.

Maryland remains under a state of emergency but last Friday afternoon some of the quarantine measures were lifted and now stores, hair salons and churches are reopening, albeit at only 50 percent capacity, as ordered by local authorities.

In like manner, North Carolina, which on Friday will enter into Phase Two of its reopening process, registered 738 new virus cases on Thursday, 422 on Wednesday and 677 on Tuesday, after experiencing what so far has been the peak in its daily new-case count last Saturday with 852 cases.

The local Raleigh News & Observer, citing official figures, emphasized that North Carolina is moving toward reopening its economy despite the fact that there are counties where the number of cases has shot up in the past two weeks, including Duplin County with 300 new cases, Guilford County with 400, Forsyth County with 428 and Wayne County with almost 200. In the latter two counties, infections have doubled within that time period.

In the face of this increase, local authorities are saying that there are more cases being detected because there are more coronavirus tests being conducted.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said in a tweet that in recent hours the proportion of daily tests being conducted had doubled to an average of 8,000, while Texas has said that the increase in cases last weekend was due to the greater number of virus tests being carried out in meat processing plants.

Doing more testing is no guarantee that the data on new confirmed cases are reliable, since Texas, Georgia, Virginia and Vermont authorities have admitted that they are having problems along those lines which they have been trying to resolve in recent days.

According to CNN, health officials in those four states have been combining figures obtained for both diagnostic and antibody tests, which could be partially obscuring the true state of affairs regarding the spread of the virus.

In PCR diagnostic tests a testee’s mucus and/or saliva is checked to see if they are presently infected with the coronavirus, while in antibody testing a blood sample is used to verify whether the person was infected in the past and has now developed antibodies to the virus. If the results from the two tests are merged this can give imprecise results regarding when and how the virus is spreading in a certain area, the cable news channel said.

Combining the results of the two different kinds of testing could overstate the ability of a state to test and track active infections, and experts have consistently emphasized that states must be doing adequate testing and tracing if they are to reopen safely.

The Atlantic magazine on Thursday reported that the government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has admitted that it is using the same method: that is to say, combining the data from diagnostic and antibody tests, even though the two tests provide different information and are used for entirely different purposes.


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