The US just had its deadliest day of the pandemic yet. June could be worse.
Plus, how a foot rash became a COVID-19 symptom .
Follow all of PopSci’s COVID-19 coverage here, including tips on cleaning groceries, ways to tell if your symptoms are just allergies, and a tutorial on making your own mask.
As we enter our third month with social distancing at the crux of daily life, Americans seem more eager than ever to leave the coronavirus pandemic behind them. But as the weather becomes increasingly summery, government and public health officials warn the country has yet to reach its COVID-19 peak. Here are some of this week’s most significant pandemic developments.
As states start to reopen, experts say America could hit 3,000 daily deaths from COVID-19 by June 1
May 1 was the deadliest day yet in the United States’ COVID-19 epidemic, with a reported death toll of 2,909. The second-highest death toll, according to data from the World Health Organization, was 2,471 on April 23.
This grim statistic isn’t completely surprising. Because patients with the novel coronavirus are often hospitalized for weeks, the sudden spike in deaths isn’t strange. It’s also not an anomaly. Projections by a group of federal agencies obtained and published Monday by The New York Times indicate a steady increase in reported cases over the next several weeks, with daily deaths hitting 3,000 by June 1.
On May 3, the US COVID-19 death toll reached 67,000—several thousand fatalities higher than President Donald Trump previously estimated for the entire pandemic. He has now revised his estimate to 100,000 total fatalities.
All of this comes as some states begin to ease social distancing restrictions and reopen businesses. In fact, many of the states that have already eased these restrictions are still experiencing an increase in cases, according to The Times. This includes Iowa, Minnesota, Tennessee, Texas, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, and Alaska. While social distancing is working to flatten the curve, the threat of COVID-19 is still eminently present—and opening things up too hastily could cause cases to surge.
Everyone wants to get tested for the coronavirus
Around 25 percent of people who test positive for COVID-19 are what researchers call “silent spreaders.” Despite showing no signs of illness, these folks still carry and spread the novel coronavirus. This makes determining the true percent of infected Americans a nightmare for epidemiologists, and also makes many people wonder if they’ve already had the virus without knowing it.
Cities and states around the country are trying to ramp up their testing efforts to include residents without symptoms. Los Angeles set up a website to allow anyone to set up an appointment to get tested. Some cities in New Jersey, one of the hardest hit states in the US, are also working to offer testing for all residents. This kind of comprehensive screening will help health officials determine the true number of infected individuals in various regions, which will also help them determine when it’s safe to ease up on social distancing measures.
A pug in North Carolina became the first US dog to test positive for the coronavirus
The pug, named Winston, was tested after its owners had tested positive for COVID-19 themselves. The dog had very mild symptoms—he was breathing strangely and sneezing—which prompted the family to get him tested. This isn’t the first animal to fall prey to the pandemic: A few house cats and even a tiger at New York’s Bronx Zoo have all tested positive for the novel coronavirus, along with a number of dogs and cats in other countries. To date, all the animals have shown only mild symptoms and have completely recovered.
The American Veterinary Medical Association still doesn’t recommend more intensive testing on pets. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not think pets play a significant role in disease transmission.
Red, swollen toes may be a sign of COVID-19
Dermatologists across the world have identified a strange connection between a skin condition and the novel coronavirus. An uptick in toe rashes, which often appear in red patches similar to mild frostbite, caused dermatologists and other researchers to look into a possible connection between infection with the new virus and these skin reactions. As one dermatologist told The Washington Post, “My inbox and my telemedicine clinic are full of just toes. It’s all about toes. I have never seen so many toes.”
They noted that this swelling and irritation often occurs in children and young adults with otherwise mild COVID-19, and could be a reaction of the immune system. This is yet another example of the novel virus’ strange workings that doctors have yet to fully understand.
If you do see any reaction like this, it could be a good reason to reach out to your physician, especially if you are in a hot zone for the virus. However, it’s unlikely to be an immediate cause for concern, according to The Post—most cases of novel coronavirus with these rashes were benign. In fact, it may be an outward sign that your immune system is putting up a good fight.
As the number of labs offering antibody tests ramps up, the tests themselves get further scrutiny from the FDA
Back in March, the Food and Drug Administration loosened its restrictions on approving antibody tests for COVID-19, allowing any company to sell these tests without having to prove they work. That backfired: The antibody tests that have hit the market in recent weeks vary widely in accuracy. Now the FDA will require any makers of antibody tests to prove their products actually work; they must submit their request along with data to show their screening methods are sound.