Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The number of new coronavirus cases nationally hovered around 30,000 a day during the entire month of April, meaning that the virus has managed to spread in spite of stringent social distancing measures.

Why it matters: Many states have already started to lift these measures, which will enable the virus to spread even faster.

Between the lines: Many Americans — like health care workers, grocery workers and emergency personnel — haven't been able to stay home, as their jobs are considered essential. That's enabled the virus to spread among these populations.

  • It has also been able to spread among people who live close together, including families, nursing home residents, incarcerated Americans and those experiencing homelessness.

The big picture: The fewer people who have the virus once society reopens, the easier it will be to control. That's part of why we shut down — the caseload had already outgrown our public health infrastructure's ability to respond to it.

  • We've built up our testing capacity over the last several weeks and are starting to do the same with contact tracing, but these tools can only do so much against exponential spread — even when fully developed, which they're not yet.
  • Even if we're able to keep the caseload at current levels, that's still an enormously challenging reality to live with.

What they're saying: "Everyone thought we’d be in a better place after weeks of sheltering in place and bringing the economy to a near standstill," former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed yesterday.

  • "Continuing spread at something near current levels may become the cruel 'new normal.' Hospitals and public-health systems will have to contend with persistent disease and death," he added.

The bottom line: April was tough, but as states begin to reopen, we don't yet know what lies ahead of us.

  • Things could get worse, or today's status quo could be in place for a long time.
  • And as has been true this whole time, what happens will look different from one community to another.

Go deeper

Updated Oct 7, 2020 - Health

World coronavirus updates

Expand chart
Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

New Zealand now has active no coronavirus cases in the community after the final six people linked to the Auckland cluster recovered, the country's Health Ministry confirmed in an email Wednesday.

The big picture: The country's second outbreak won't officially be declared closed until there have been "no new cases for two incubation periods," the ministry said. Auckland will join the rest of NZ in enjoying no domestic restrictions from late Wednesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, declaring that NZ had "beat the virus again."

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
Aug 12, 2020 - Health

America's flying blind on its coronavirus response

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A month after the Trump administration changed how hospital data is reported, the public release of this data "has slowed to a crawl," the Wall Street Journal reports.

The big picture: This is the latest example of how the world's wealthiest country just can't get it together.

Aug 12, 2020 - World

Lebanon reports coronavirus record: UN warns Beirut blast may drive cases higher

Protesters commemorate on Tuesday the victims of Beirut's Aug. 4 port explosion, which killed at least 158 people and injured some 6,000 others. Photo: Marwan Naamani/Picture Alliance via Getty Images

Lebanon reported on Tuesday seven deaths from COVID-19 and a record 309 new cases, taking the total number of infections to over 7,100.

Why it matters: World Organization official Tarik Jarasevic told a UN briefing in Geneva Tuesday that the displacement of some 300,000 people from the deadly explosion in Beirut's port could lead to a surge in cases. A UN report warns the emergency "has caused many COVID-19 precautionary measures to be relaxed, raising the prospects of even higher transmission rates and a large caseload in coming weeks," Reuters notes.

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