America’s third Covid-19 surge is here. It was predictable — and preventable.

“As of October 20, the seven-day average of coronavirus cases was more than 60,000 — a new peak since the summer surge of Covid-19 abated. That’s up from a recent low in the seven-day average of fewer than 35,000 cases on September 12. The increase doesn’t appear to be driven by a single state or region — although the Dakotas, Montana, and Wisconsin appear to be in particularly bad shape — but rather spikes across much of the country at once, with increases reported across the Northeast, Midwest, South, and West. (Some of the spike is also caused by more testing exposing more cases.)”

“The current surge seems to be a repeat of the summer spike. Cases started to fall in late August, eventually reaching a brief plateau between mid-August and mid-September. But that plateau was still much higher than the peak of Covid-19 cases in the spring (partly, but likely not entirely, due to more testing). Yet states seemingly declared victory and started to reopen anyway — and now cases are rapidly climbing again.

MacDonald is now repeating the same thing she told me in the summer: “We never got to low enough levels [of Covid-19] to start with in most places.”

Of particular interest is indoor dining at restaurants and bars, which are reopening at varying levels across the country. Experts characterize these settings as perhaps the worst imaginable spaces for Covid-19 spread: People are close together for long periods of time; they can’t wear masks as they eat or drink; the air can’t dilute the virus like it can outdoors; and alcohol could lead people to drop their guards further. It was a recognition of all these risks that led many states to scale back and close indoor dining and bars during their summer outbreaks.”

“None of the ideas to prevent all of this are shocking or new. They’re all things people have heard before: More testing and contact tracing to isolate people who are infected, get their close contacts to quarantine, and deploy broader restrictions as necessary. More masking, including mandates in the 17 states that don’t have one. More careful, phased reopenings. More social distancing.” 

“While experts all agreed that there’s zero political appetite for a lockdown right now, a massive surge in the fall and winter could leave the US with no other option. Israel, for example, shut down in September after seeing a massive increase in cases, and several European countries are now considering or enacting similar measures as their cases rise.”

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