Third wave of coronavirus hits US
A person wears a face mask outside the permanently closed Spreads Sandwich Shop in Gramercy as the city continues the re-opening efforts following restrictions imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus on October 14, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images)

“We are headed in the wrong direction,” Caitlin Rivers, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University, told the New York Times. 

The United States is facing a “third wave” of coronavirus-related hospitalizations, prompting many to view the uptick in cases as yet another example of President Donald Trump’s mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A surge of new coronavirus cases is sweeping the country, particularly in the Midwest and the northern plains. Wisconsin, for example, broke its single-day record for new cases on Tuesday, with 3,279 people testing positive and 34 deaths. State officials opened a 530-bed field hospital outside Milwaukee the following day to help address the influx of patients. According to the COVID Tracking Project, about one-in-four of hospitalized patients are in the ICU.

“We are headed in the wrong direction,” Caitlin Rivers, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University, told the New York Times. 

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Public health experts say the third wave is not necessarily a re-emergence of the virus, as seen in other countries, but rather an indication that the US never successfully got the virus under control. As of Thursday afternoon, the country documented more than 7.8 million COVID cases and over 215,000 virus-related deaths. In the last seven days, a total of 359,835 new positive cases emerged.

Doctors and scientists are afraid that another wave will prove to be as devastating as the previous two surges. “Clearly there are clouds on the horizon, and there are some very worrisome trends,” Mark Rupp, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, told BuzzFeed News.

It Didn’t Have to Be This Way

With Election Day nearing, the uptick in cases serves as another reminder of how poorly President Trump has handled the coronavirus crisis. Prior to the start of the pandemic, the president was briefed on the impending threat of the virus but chose to downplay its potential gruesome impacts on American lives. His administration also repeatedly attempted to undermine scientific institutions and scientists delegated to manage the COVID-19 response, ranging from trying to discredit the proven effectiveness of mask-wearing to suggesting that injecting disinfectants into the body can treat the virus. 

As a result of Trump’s mishandling, nearly 13 million people were unemployed just last month, another 898,000 people filed for unemployment benefits for the first time last week, and hundreds of thousands of small businesses have permanently shut down since the pandemic began. 

The president himself was also hospitalized with COVID-19 earlier this month—and then 34 White House staffers subsequently tested positive for the virus.

Amid the widespread criticism the Trump administration has received for its mishandling of the virus, Democratic nominee Joe Biden and his campaign have  their own strategy and plan to combat the public health and economic consequences of the pandemic.

“Let me be clear,” the former vice president said during a Sept. 16 speech in Wilmington, Delaware. “I trust vaccines. I trust scientists. But I don’t trust Donald Trump. And at this moment, the American people can’t either.”

In addition to tapping Ron Klain—who managed the Obama administration’s response to the ebola epidemic—to be his top advisor, Biden has also established an informal task force of doctors, scientists, and experts to brief him on the outbreak and the best strategies to curb it.

But What’s In His Plan?

The first thing in Biden’s COVID-19 response plan is to improve containment of infected patients with a testing, tracing, and isolating strategy for new cases and potential contacts—something  the Trump administration has failed to do effectively since the beginning. In other words, Biden’s goal is to ramp up testing and contact tracing so that health officials can quickly identify who needs to be isolated to reduce the risk of transmission. 

Part of this strategy includes addressing the costs associated with prevention and care related to COVID-19. Under Biden’s response plan, no American—whether they’re insured publicly, privately, or not at all—would “have to pay a dollar out-of-pocket for visits related to COVID-19 testing, treatment, preventative services, and any eventual vaccine.”

RELATED: Biden Blasts Trump’s Coronavirus Response: ‘Our Wartime President Has Surrendered’

Another integral part of Biden’s plan is to offer immediate relief to those financially impacted by the pandemic. “The federal government must act swiftly and aggressively to help protect and support our families, small businesses, first responders and caregivers essential to help us face this challenge, those who are most vulnerable to health and economic impacts, and our broader communities—not to blame others or bail out corporations,” the campaign states.

However, the chances of success for his economic and business relief plans is dependent on whether Congress is Democratic-controlled or still split between a Democratic-majority House and Republican Senate. Biden, like House Democrats, believes the only way to get a handle on this unprecedented economic crisis is to pass and implement a new stimulus package that includes additional funding to improve testing and tracing, as well as protocols on how to appropriately and effectively spend those federal funds. That should include expanding paid leave and more funds for unemployment benefits and state and local governments.

His economic relief plan also extends to education by forgiving $10,000 in federal student loans for borrowers, and eliminating federal undergraduate student debt for those earning less than $125,000 as long as they attended a public college, a Historically Black College, or Minority Serving Institution. 

Finally, Biden wants to develop a more precise and detailed strategy for fast and efficient vaccine distribution. This strategy would include offering a clear breakdown of which groups are high-priority for vaccinations, a straightforward timeline of when a vaccine would be made available to the pubic, federal guidance on the shipping and storing of vaccines, and which government agencies would be tasked with the oversight and implementation of the vaccine distribution plan. 

While some critics may believe Biden’s plan is out of reach, the reality is that it’s not only possible but effective. His strategy mimics those executed in European and Asian countries that managed to mitigate virus spread and reopen their economy relatively quickly.  

“One thing is certain,” Biden said in last month’s Delaware speech. “Americans have had to endure President Trump’s incompetence and dishonesty when it comes to testing and personal protective equipment. We can’t afford to repeat those fiascos when it comes to a vaccine, when it occurs. The stakes are too high. American families have already suffered and sacrificed too much.”

READ MORE: Trump’s Decision to Skip International COVID-19 Vaccine Effort Will ‘Kill People,’ Experts Say