Updated at 9:20 p.m. ET on October 22, 2020
The United States is sleepwalking into what could become the largest coronavirus outbreak of the pandemic so far. In the past week alone, as voters prepare to go to the ballot box, about one in every 1,000 Americans has tested positive for the virus, and about two in every 100,000 Americans have died of it. Today, the United States reported 73,103 new cases, the third-highest single-day total since the pandemic began, according to the COVID Tracking Project at The Atlantic.
This third surge is far more geographically dispersed than what the country saw in the spring or summer: The virus can now be found in every kind of American community, from tiny farm towns to affluent suburbs to bustling border cities. This is the first of the American surges with no clear epicenter: From North Carolina to North Dakota, and Colorado to Connecticut, more Americans are contracting COVID-19.
The United States now reports nearly 60,000 new cases every day, numbers previously seen only during the peak in July and early August. Since the middle of September, the number of new cases diagnosed each day has swelled by 73 percent. The number of Americans hospitalized has increased by at least 40 percent.
True to its pandemic response so far, the White House has not mounted an effort to stop this spike. Donald Trump has not spoken to the nation or pushed forward a strategy to address a third surge. And both the president and Vice President Mike Pence are holding crowded in-person rallies in some of the same states—such as Iowa, Pennsylvania, and Indiana—now seeing surges. In the next two weeks, yet more Americans will fall ill, in numbers that are certain to make this an Election Day unlike any other. If the country’s medical and political crises were ever separate, they are not now.