While most states are reopening or have completely lifted restrictions on businesses, it’s not time to celebrate the end of the pandemic yet. Last week, the US saw the highest number of infections in a single day since the pandemic began, and experts are still predicting a second wave in the months ahead, potentially coinciding with the peak of flu season. So be prepared—get your flu shot, wear your mask, and continue to social distance as the weather cools down.
Five states see new COVID-19 infections increase by 50% in a week
Coronavirus cases are climbing across the country, with 31 states reporting higher numbers last week than the week before. Five of those states—Montana, New Mexico, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Vermont—saw an increase of 50% or more in that time frame.
Montana is being hit particularly badly. Between September 30 and October 10, the state recorded more than 5,000 new cases, according to Johns Hopkins University data. As a comparison, it took five months at the beginning of the pandemic before the state saw that many total infections.
Only three states—Maine, Texas, and Washington—reported that the average daily number of new cases dropped last week compared to the week before. The remaining 16 states saw no change.
In lab conditions, the novel coronavirus can survive for 28 days (but don’t panic)
A new study from Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, found that when samples of SARS-CoV-2 are isolated in darkness and kept at room temperature on non-porous surfaces like glass or plastic, the virus can survive for up to 28 days. In comparison, the flu can survive in these same conditions for about 17 days.
But there’s an important caveat: the conditions in the study are not comparable to real-life conditions. Other studies have shown that UV light can kill the virus, which makes sunlit spaces much safer than a darkened lab. Professor Ron Eckles at Cardiff University also criticized the study for causing unnecessary concern, noting that in everyday conditions, the virus is usually transmitted in droplets of mucus which contain white blood cells that also help kill the virus. The study also did not discuss how much of the virus survived for the 28-day period or whether it would be possible for a human to contract COVID-19 after that period of time.
The novel coronavirus is mainly transmitted directly between people when they cough, sneeze, or talk. There is not a consensus between experts on whether it is transmitted through contact with surfaces, but this is believed to be much less common.
That said, it is important to know how long the virus can persist on surfaces so that governments can create better policies to protect people, according to CSIRO chief executive Larry Marshall. The study’s findings may help to explain outbreaks at meat processing and cold storage facilities, he says.
More densely populated areas see slower, more prolonged rates of infection, study finds
A new study published in the journal Nature last week simulated the spread of coronavirus based on outbreaks early on in the pandemic. The researchers found that in areas with lower population densities and where people tend to stick to their own neighborhoods, short, intense spikes are likely, whereas densely populated cities with more widespread travel see more prolonged outbreaks.
The study used examples from early on in the pandemic, like Wuhan, China and less densely populated areas of Italy, to create a model of what factors tend to encourage the spread of coronavirus. That model was then applied to 310 cities around the globe.
Areas with a relatively even population spread are more likely to see one large spike in infections that ends in a fairly short period of time. The study gives Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia as an example of this type of spread. Large urban centers, like Madrid, Spain, are more likely to see drawn-out periods of high infection rates rather than a single spike.
10,000 mink have died of the coronavirus on Utah fur farms
10,000 mink have died of COVID-19 at Utah fur farms, according to veterinary authorities. The outbreak has triggered the quarantines of nine fur farms in the state. The virus is mainly affecting older mink and may have killed as much as 50% of the breeding population.
The first US cases of COVID-19 in mink were recorded in Utah in August after farmworkers noticed that a much higher number of the animals were dying than usual. State public health and veterinary authorities say that the mink caught the virus from human handlers.
The first known cases of mink being infected with the novel coronavirus occurred in the Netherlands in April. The animals show similar symptoms of respiratory distress as humans do and usually die about a day after exhibiting symptoms. While about one million mink have been euthanized in the Netherlands as a precautionary measure, Utah authorities say that no mink have been euthanized in the state due to the outbreak.
Veterinary experts also say in general, there is a very low risk of transmission of the coronavirus from pets like cats and dogs to humans. So far, however, several cases of mink-to-human transmission have been identified in Europe.