Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.
On the South Lawn of the White House on Thursday, President Donald Trump talked about dishwashers, dryers, showerheads, and faucets.
What he didn’t speak about was the tens of thousands of Americans contracting the coronavirus every day and the hundreds of people who are dying from it.
The U.S. shattered its single-day record for new coronavirus infections on Thursday, reporting more than 77,000 thousand cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
It marks the 11th time in the last month that the U.S. has set a new daily record for infections. But more troubling for public health experts is that the death toll from those infections is now beginning to follow the same trend.
On Thursday, another 936 people died from COVID-19, a figure that continues the upward trend seen in recent days after average daily deaths fell as low as 500 last month.
After a brief period where it appeared the U.S. had gotten a hold on the spread of COVID-19, infections began to rise in the middle of June. A week later, hospitalizations from the coronavirus also began to rise, and two weeks after that, deaths began to increase.
This timescale is the exact one set out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the onset of symptoms to the reporting of a death.
That means that despite the Trump administration’s attempts to dismiss the increased infection rates as a mere reflection of increased testing, there is likely to be a major surge in deaths in the coming weeks.
“They’re starting to tick up,” Jennifer Nuzzo, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security told the Washington Post. “Deaths are a lagging indicator, so we always expected that if they were going to go up, it would take some time. “I would give it two weeks to know for sure [but] I’m expecting to see that this trend will hold.”
In the past week alone, 10 states have reported record death tolls.
Florida broke its death toll record on Thursday with 156 deaths, while it also shattered its single-day infection record with 13,965 news cases.
In Arizona, which has also been hit hard by the virus in recent weeks, the medical examiner’s office in Phoenix has been forced to order more portable storage coolers to deal with an influx of bodies.
Officials in South Carolina on Thursday confirmed 69 more deaths, more than double any previous single day. Thursday’s deaths push South Carolina past the 1,000 deaths mark, making it the 25th state to reach this grim milestone.
The state, which is a microcosm of how the coronavirus has spread across the country in recent months, also reported a record number of hospitalizations on Thursday due to COVID-19. Almost 40% of its 62,000 infections have been reported in the last two weeks.
In Charleston, one of South Carolina’s hardest-hit cities and one that has required masks to be worn in public since the beginning of July, the mayor turned to prayer to solve the problem.
“We do turn to God at a time like this,” Mayor John Tecklenburg said, announcing a day of prayer while surrounded by leaders of various faiths. They prayed for the dead, the sick and their families, health care workers, scientists seeking a vaccine, and politicians.
In Texas, where one county alone reported 5,000 new infections on Thursday, officials reported 129 new deaths. It brings the state’s death total to 3,400, one-third of which have been reported in the last two weeks.
The state’s medical staff have been so overwhelmed that Army medical staff have taken over the COVID-19 wing of the United Memorial Medical Center in Houston and begun treating patients there.
While at least 25 states now have mask rules, governors in many of the states with the highest infection rates have refused to mandate mask-wearing in public, despite the clear and obvious threat to the lives of citizens.
In Georgia, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp is so intent on preventing masking wearing to be made mandatory that he is willing to sue Atlanta’s mayor and city council, who introduced a mandate to wear a mask in public.
Kemp is arguing that Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has overstepped her authority and must obey Kemp’s executive orders under state law.
“Governor Kemp must be allowed, as the chief executive of this state, to manage the public health emergency without Mayor Bottoms issuing void and unenforceable orders which only serve to confuse the public,” the lawsuit states.
But Bottoms said the order remains in effect and urged Kemp to put his energy into other actions.
“As of today, 3,104 Georgians have died and I and my family are amongst the 106,000 who have tested positive for COVID-19,” Bottoms said in a statement after the lawsuit was filed. “A better use of taxpayer money would be to expand testing and contact tracing. If being sued by the state is what it takes to save lives in Atlanta, then we will see them in court.”
Cover: President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the Rose Garden of the White House, Tuesday, July 14, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)