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Back to virus basics: What you need to know to fight a new infection wave in 30+ states
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Back to virus basics: What you need to know to fight a new infection wave in 30+ states

With infection numbers rising in more than 30 states, the U.S. this past week set another daily record for new coronavirus cases. And federal health officials warned that the number of people who've been infected may be vastly undercounted.

The developments mark a "heartbreaking situation" that demands stricter actions immediately, said Dr. Peter Hotez of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

U.S. officials estimate that 20 million Americans have been infected with the coronavirus since it first arrived in the United States, meaning that the vast majority of the population remains susceptible.

Some basic facts:

  • While more than 2.4 million cases have been diagnosed nationwide since the pandemic started, the number of people who have been infected is likely to be 10 times as high. Antibody tests show more than 20 million people have been infected with coronavirus, most of them without knowing it, said Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Between 5% and 8% of Americans have been infected with the coronavirus, with the numbers varying by region.
  • Coronavirus has killed more than 124,000 people in the United States, and confirmed cases are surging in a majority of the country.
  • So far, 32 states are reporting an increase in new coronavirus cases this week as compared to the prior week. Eleven of them report a 50% increase or greater. They include Montana, Idaho, Vermont, Nevada, Arizona, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Missouri and Mississippi.

All ages at risk

Meanwhile, federal health officials updated the list of who's most at risk of severe complications from COVID-19.

The CDC added mild obesity to a list that includes the elderly, people with lung or kidney disease, and those with diabetes.

People with moderate to severe asthma are also at higher risk along with pregnant women, the CDC said. Those with cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are also at higher risk, the CDC's Dr. Jay Butler said. So are those with conditions such as sickle cell disease, poorly controlled HIV infection, bone marrow transplants or an organ transplant.

The CDC also removed the specific age threshold, saying it's not just those over age 65 who are at increased risk for severe illness.

What you can do

The statistics may seem bleak but health officials have said all along that individual behavior makes a difference. Epidemiologist Larry Brilliant told CNN, "If you let everybody out without face masks and without social distancing in the middle of a pandemic, this is what was predicted."

Here are several guides to recognizing symptoms and staying safe.

Practice social distancing by putting space between yourself and others. Continue to practice healthy habits to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Know the symptoms of COVID-19, which can include cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fever, chills, muscle pain, sore throat, and new loss of taste or smell.

What about the mask?

Setting politics aside, health officials still consider masks a good way to prevent spread of infection. 

Your cloth face covering should reach above the nose, below the chin, and completely cover the mouth and nostrils. Many items you may already have in your home can be used to create face coverings. Try creating a cloth face covering using bandanas, ski masks, washable napkins, or dish towels.

Know what's true and what's not

Naturally, scammers and political partisans are using social media to try to dupe us. Take a quiz to see if you can spot the fake claims.

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