Daily virus death toll rises in some states

Farah Stockman, Mitch Smith and Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio
The New York Times Company

The daily number of deaths from the coronavirus has risen recently in some of the most populous U.S. states, signaling a possible end to months of declining death totals nationally.

In Texas, officials announced 119 deaths Wednesday, surpassing a daily record for deaths in the pandemic that the state had set only a day earlier. In Arizona, more than 200 deaths have been announced already this week, and the daily virus death toll in the state reached higher than ever. Mississippi, Florida and Tennessee also set single-day death records this week.

The seven-day death average in the United States reached 608 on Thursday, up from 471 earlier in July but still a fraction of the more than 2,200 deaths the country averaged each day in mid-April, when the situation in the Northeast was at its worst.

Health experts cautioned it was too early to predict a continuing trend from only a few days of data. But the rising pace of deaths in the Sun Belt followed weeks of mounting cases in the region and suggested an end to the country’s nearly three-month period of declines in daily counts of virus deaths.

That steadily downward trend in daily deaths began in April after states instituted stay-at-home orders, and it continued through June after states reopened their economies. The decline had continued over the past month even as cases of the virus skyrocketed in the South and West.

Deaths occur weeks after infections, so any rise in deaths would be expected to come later than a rise in cases. But public health experts said the diverging trends — newly rising cases but still declining daily deaths — had occurred largely because the new surge of virus cases also involved many younger and healthier people, who experts said were less likely to become seriously ill or die. Still, many experts predicted that the declining death tolls were unlikely to last as the virus continued spreading, passing from younger people to older people and those who are more vulnerable to the most dire effects of the virus.

Some officials have attributed the drop in deaths over the past few months to improvements in treatment for the virus. Doctors have more tools today than they did in the spring, including the use of remdesivir, an anti-viral drug, and have learned from earlier outbreaks.

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