Claims that the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic is over may have been proven premature, as Johns Hopkins University reported more than 54,000 new United States coronavirus cases on Friday, Oct. 2. The highest number since Aug. 14, these new cases push the total number of confirmed cases in the United States to nearly 7.4 million and the death toll to around 209,000. Globally, the number of coronavirus cases is now over 34.5 million, with a death toll of over 1 million people. 

The United States is not alone in what is now a global uptick in coronavirus cases. On Saturday, India became the third country, following the United States and Brazil, to surpass 100,000 deaths as a result of coronavirus. Madrid is returning to a city-wide lockdown, which prevents people from leaving their homes except for work, health or education reasons, and it limits gatherings to six people. Similarly, a record rise of new cases in England prompted Prime Minister Boris Johnson to ban indoor household mixing and advise against non-essential travel in a number of cities in Northern England. 

More locally, coronavirus cases in Pennsylvania exceeded 1,100 three times last week, bringing the statewide total to more than 161,000. Acknowledging the increased hardship of Pennsylvanians due to the pandemic, especially those in the BIPOC community, Governor Tim Wolf unveiled a comprehensive health care reform plan on Oct. 2. 

“I am proposing a health reform package that will make healthcare more affordable, hold health care corporations accountable and tackle the health inequities resulting from systemic racism,” Wolf said, highlighting that “even before the pandemic, there were warning signs that Pennsylvania’s health care system wasn’t working for everyone.” 

Although the coronavirus pandemic disproportionately affects vulnerable communities, the recent rise in coronavirus cases has not left the elite untouched. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump were among those who tested positive for COVID-19. 

As a result of President Trump’s Rose Garden gathering on Sept. 26, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, Utah Senator Mike Lee and North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis all contracted the virus as well.

Things are not likely to improve soon, as Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel recently announced at a Financial Times event that it would be late November at the earliest that the company could file for emergency use authorization for a potential COVID-19 vaccine. Bancel explained that this is due to the necessity of collecting two-month safety data for at least half of trial participants who received their second doses of the vaccine. As their 15,000th patient received their second dose on Sept. 25, emergency authorization would therefore not be permissible until Nov. 25. Additionally, a group of researchers brought together by the Royal Society stressed the importance of patience in awaiting a vaccine for the coronavirus. 

“A vaccine offers great hope for potentially ending the pandemic, but we do know that the history of vaccine development is littered with lots of failures,” said Dr. Fiona Culley, who is one of the researchers.