Falling COVID-19 Cases in Some States Don't Mean 'Mission Accomplished'

While most states in the U.S. are seeing their COVID-19 cases climb, diagnoses are falling in a handful. But experts told Newsweek communities shouldn't let such figures provide a false sense of security.

In Arizona, Delaware, New Jersey, and Maine, the 14-day trend of COVID-19 cases has decreased by 16 percent, 18 percent, 36 percent, and 5 percent, respectively, according Covidexitstrategy.org.

The New York Times COVID-19 database, similarly showed new cases per capita in the past 14 days decreasing in Arizona, Delaware, and Maine.

This comes against a backdrop of spikes COVID-19 in cases in recent weeks, with southern and western states hit particularly hard, and ICU beds running low in a number of locations. The U.S. continues to be the country with the most known coronavirus infections, at 3.9 million of 14.9 million worldwide. It also has also suffered more deaths than any other country, at over 142,000 of almost 617,000, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Dr. Vikas Parekh, professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan, told Newsweek it is important to interpret the two-week trends in the handful of states with dropping cases in the context of other data, including longer term patterns.

Citing Covidexitstrategy, Parekh said Arizona's cases may be down "but that is coming off one of the worst peaks of any state." Its outbreak was pinned on re-opening too early, and its counties among those to buy makeshift morgue freezer trucks as deaths rose.

Parekh said new cases in the state plateauing and now trending downwards provided "a glimmer of hope."

Maine and Delaware, meanwhile, are relatively small states both coming down from small peaks around July 4, with Maine performing better than Delaware on a population basis, according to Parekh.

Their low population density means the number of people per area is small, making social distancing easier, Dr. Joshua Barocas, infectious disease physician at Boston Medical Center and Assistant professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine, told Newsweek.

States in New England such as Maine were the last to re-open, and it was "very cautious," said Parekh, never reopening indoor bars, and asking travelers from states other than New Hampshire and Vermont to quarantine for 14 days. "Many would classify Delaware as not doing well as the rate of cases per million people is high."

Delaware was also slow to re-open bars, and theaters and sporting venues remain closed.

Both states also have mask mandates, whereas Arizona does not.

For Maine and Delaware, Amira A. Roess, professor of global health and epidemiology at George Mason University, told Newsweek: "It remains to be seen whether this is the beginning.

"These two states have a lot of beaches and outdoor summer activities" and she said it is possible cases will increase as the summer goes on.

"Several states with similar population and demographics and population density saw similar decreases in cases earlier this summer but with many businesses reopening and populations re-engaging in economic and recreational activities those," she said.

Barocas said "would not hang up the 'mission accomplished' banner just yet," adding "I am reticent to say that we are out of the woods yet."

"This is the time when states that are seeing positive trends (decreases in cases) need to buckle down and not let their guard up," he said. "This is also the time that states that are seeing more negative trends (increased cases) need to also buckle down."

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A nurse conducts a coronavirus test at a newly opened mega drive-thru site at El Paso Community College Valle Verde campus on July 21, 2020 in El Paso, Texas. Cengiz Yar/Getty Images