Updated: Aug 15, 2021
A second wave has started.
As businesses and schools open for fall returns, Americans are seeing more Covid-19 cases all over the country. The latest Johns Hopkins data of new Covid-19 infections has increased to 51,473 new cases per day across the United States. For comparison, this number was 34,354 in early September. The New York State quarantine list now has 35 states that have excess rate of Covid-19 infections. The death rate from Covid-19 is also increasing with approximately 1,000 deaths per day recently in the US. For comparison, Hong Kong has had 105 total deaths for the entire pandemic.
Theories vary as to why cases in the US are increasing. The reopening of society on different fronts may have contributed to this trend. Reopened schools across the country may have created more cases of Covid-19. However, reports of increased cases have occurred even in areas such as New York and Los Angeles where all of the school districts have not fully opened. Another theory for increased Covid-19 cases is that many families were on vacation during the summer months and were effectively isolated from other contacts. Other sociologists express that Americans have become tired of hearing of the dangers of Covid-19 infections and have become frustrated with mask-wearing and social distancing. A last notion posits that cooler weather is showing an effect and more activities are being conducted indoors.
Regardless of the etiology, cases are increasing in the US at a time when children are going back to school and businesses are reopening after protracted delays. Theme parks and restaurants have been opening across the country but only with limited capacity. All these types of organizations have been struggling to provide their missions during full quarantines. Most of these that have been open would be reluctant to close now without local government mandates or personally affected personnel. These groups want to stay open but are struggling to find solutions.
They need to get back to the basics.
These organizations need to stick to the tried and true strategies: identify, test, and trace cases of Covid-19. The backbone of a solid identification strategy is a strong symptom monitor that identifies individuals who need to be tested and quarantined. This monitor has to have one that has an exhaustive list of symptoms that are consistent with Covid-19. Simple questions that query only 2-3 symptoms or do not include questions about domestic contacts or travel will be insufficient at identifying all potential cases of Covid-19.
Besides having a complete survey, the most important feature of a symptom monitor is that it yields complete adoption by its users. When individuals do not fill out the survey, the whole system becomes deficient. Less than absolute adoption is especially frightening when one considers that the individuals who do not fill out survey may be the one most likely to harbor Covid-19 or its symptoms. The same “problem individuals” may be the ones who show a lax respect for the disease. Organizations should be paying attention to the completion rates for their personnel and children who are filling out these surveys. Subpar adoption is dangerous and will invariably lead to unidentified cases of Covid-19 as rates in different communities increase.
Lessons learned from the cluster of infections within the White House despite frequent testing need to be applied to other institutions. Individuals need to be monitored for infections and quarantined and tested immediately. Strategic surveillance testing should complement these initiatives but is not foolproof unless other rules are also followed. Covid-19 cases appear to be increasing, but organizations do have the tools to combat this trend.