Donald Trump's COVID-19 diagnosis serves as a reminder of the pervasive spread of coronavirus in the US and shows how tenuous a grip the nation has on the crisis, health experts say.
Trump became one of the tens of thousands of Americans who test positive each day. He went through a "very concerning" period on Friday and the next 48 hours "will be critical" in his care, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said on Saturday.
The US leads the world in numbers of confirmed infections, with more than 7 million, and deaths, with more than 208,000. Only a handful of countries rank higher in COVID-19 deaths per capita. The US is averaging 40,000 cases a day.
"The statistics are so mindboggling, they make us numb to the reality of just how painful, unacceptable and absurd this is," said Dr. Reed Tuckson, board chairman of the nonpartisan Health Policy Alliance in Washington. "Every single American must double down on their vigilance. If we don't, then we are being foolhardy and irresponsible."
The situation is improving in Sun Belt states that were hot spots in the summer, and many loosened restrictions this week.
Mississippi's governor ended a mask requirement, South Carolina's governor said he would ease capacity restrictions on restaurants and New Orleans bars got the greenlight to sell carry-out drinks. Florida has moved ahead with an aggressive reopening that gives bars and restaurants latitude to allow as many customers as they choose.
The outlook is gloomier in the Midwest.
Wisconsin reported a record daily death toll on Wednesday, and hospitals in multiple cities said they were running out of space.
Iowa reported more than 1,000 new cases for the third consecutive day on Friday as the virus continued to aggressively spread. South Dakota officials reported record highs in deaths and cases Thursday.
On the east coast, New York has had an uptick in cases.
Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious diseases expert at Vanderbilt University, said Trump's diagnosis "reinforces the notion we need a national policy and we need everyone to participate in the basic preventions."
Instead, Schaffner said, the response "has been subcontracted to the governors, which has left us with a crazy quilt of approaches."
For months, Trump has downplayed the virus, rarely wearing a mask, holding large campaign rallies and urging businesses and schools to reopen. Masks have not been mandatory for White House staff, despite evidence they help stop the spread.
"Now, tragically, this experiment has shown, at the highest office of the country, it ain't working. It didn't work," Schaffner said.
"No one is entirely out of the virus's reach, even those supposedly inside a protective bubble," said Josh Michaud, associate director of global health policy with the Kaiser Family Foundation in Washington.
Michaud said the nation is experiencing "a dangerous moment."
"We have lots of schools, universities, workplaces and other businesses and institutions reopening. Colder weather is also on the way, which will likely increase the chances people will congregate together indoors," Michaud said.
"We're still not doing sufficient testing and contact tracing across the country," Michaud said. "For all these reasons, we're likely to see more transmission in the US, not less, in the coming weeks and months."