Coronavirus

Watch: Dr. Ashish Jha says U.S. is on track to see a ‘horrible’ December with COVID-19 pandemic

“By the end of this month, I expect things to start looking much worse — unless we act now.”

FILE - In this Oct. 23, 2020, file photo, University of Washington research coordinator Rhoshni Prabhu holds up a swab after testing a passenger at a free COVID testing site in Seattle. Deaths per day from the coronavirus in the U.S. are on the rise again, just as health experts had feared, and cases are climbing in nearly every single state. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, is warning that unless the United States acts immediately to curb the virus — by wearing masks, social distancing, and other well-established methods — the outlook for coronavirus infections over the next two months will only get worse. 

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During a Monday interview with PBS NewsHour, the public health expert noted that to start the month of November, the country is already seeing about 100,000 new COVID-19 cases a day. Unlike the spring, when surges in cases were located in specific regions, what is happening now is occurring across the nation as 49 states see increasing infections. 

The daily numbers only scrape the surface of the virus infections, Jha said.

“We’re probably missing 70, 80 percent of cases out there, so the real number of infections is substantially greater,” he said. “And we’re not doing the things to slow this down. So by the end of this month, I expect things to start looking much worse, unless we act now. So we can avoid a horrible December, but we’ve got to make some changes right now.”

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Jha’s colleague at Brown, Dr. Megan Ranney also expressed concern Monday about the U.S. outlook for the pandemic over the next few months — regardless of the results of Tuesday’s presidential election.

“We have 2+ long months to go,” Ranney wrote on Twitter. “And the wave of #covid19 is just starting to hit. No matter what happens [Tuesday], we may be rudderless at the very moment of crisis. It will be on us — state and county health depts. Hospitals. Volunteers. Public-private partnerships. Ordinary Americans.”

The doctor noted that the last seven months of the pandemic have been “brutal,” but stressed getting through it “together.”

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“One last burst of ingenuity will be needed,” Ranney said. 

On Monday, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced a series of new orders, including a nighttime stay-at-home advisory and a mask mandate, to curb the rising tide of COVID-19 infections in the state. The number of new infections reported per day in Massachusetts is up 278 percent since Labor Day, according to data from the Department of Public Health. The state has also seen a rise in hospitalizations, up 143 percent, during that same period.

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