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COVID-19 cases are surging nationwide. Here's what you need to know

We know that things are uncertain right now, and they have been for the last eight months. Whether you're attending school in-person or your classes have been moved remote, you probably know someone who has had to quarantine. You might have already had to quarantine, too, while waiting for test results.

And the scary reality? As we head into winter, the United States is entering into another wave of coronavirus infections, similar to that of last March.

The Associated Press reports that U.S. cases are surging to upward of 100,000 positive infections per day over the past week, with case numbers rising in 49 states and deaths rising in 39.

Yes, you read that correctly: The U.S. has been reporting over 100,000 new cases in one single day, every day, for more than a week. Our total positive case count is rising past 11 million.

The Midwest is being hit particularly hard, with hospitals reaching maximum capacity and North Dakota reporting the most positive COVID-19 cases per capita in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Are we heading into a second lockdown?

Right now, it's unlikely. Many people worry that a second lockdown could damage the economy, and Congress has repeatedly stalled in debates of how much financial support can be offered in another round of stimulus checks (similar to the $1,200 your parents probably received last spring. They also probably received $500 for you and each of your siblings—part of a huge economic relief bill called the CARES Act, which passed in late March).

As of right now, COVID-19 restrictions still vary state by state. Governors across the country are releasing statewide guidelines—like shutting down bars, restaurants and gyms by 10 p.m. in New York or issuing stay-at-home advisories in Massachusetts

And Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, told Good Morning America that if people keep following guidelines, a second lockdown might not be necessary.

"I believe we can do it without a lockdown," he said. "I really do."

What about a vaccine?

Some of the good news coming out of this week are the newest results from drug company Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine candidate.

Last Monday, Pfizer reported a 90% success rate in its vaccine's clinical trials (this is a really high percentage—the F.D.A. normally requires a 50% success rate for new vaccines).

And while we might not have any more definitive information for a while, experts are suggesting vaccine distribution could start by the end of this year. It will take a while to distribute vaccinations across the country, but one of the vaccine's creators suggests we might see the beginning of a return to normal by next winter.

We wish we could make this all end for you right now. None of us could have ever predicted we would be spending close to a year enduring a pandemic. It feels like the stuff of dystopian novels, not our daily lives.

It's ok to let yourself feel that. We promise. The second you try to pretend everything is business as usual, whether it's putting on your mask before walking into the grocery store or logging in to your next Zoom class, you're doing yourself a disservice. This is not normal. Give yourself grace if you're not on your A-game all the time.

The best thing we can do is keep doing everything we have been doing: Staying home, washing our hands and socially distancing.

And remember that, no matter what, this isn't going to last forever. Every day, we're closer to returning to normal. 

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by Erin Sargent | 11/16/2020
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