COVID-19 cases are spreading across the United States with a new case added every second, according to the latest Johns Hopkins University data.

Coronavirus deaths, cases on the rise again

The United States set a grim record this week. The country recorded 90,000 new cases on Thursday, adding a new case of more than one per second, for a total of more than nine million cases since the pandemic began.

The virus has caused more than 228,000 deaths in the U.S., the highest totals in the world.

Although daily reported deaths average around 800 per day, below the peak in the spring, public health experts warn that deaths will surge again this fall and winter. One model from the University of Washington projects 386,000 dead by Feb. 1, according to the Associated Press. Michael Osterholm, a University of Minnesota expert on infectious diseases, told the AP that the recent surge is due to three factors: “pandemic fatigue” among people who are tired of social distancing, “pandemic anger” among those are don’t believe the virus is a real threat, and cold weather, which will force more Americans indoors, where the virus can spread more easily. 

The latest surge is “not good news,” Anthony Fauci, director of the national Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Yahoo Finance this week. The country is “at the highest baseline we’ve ever been, which is really quite precarious.”

But, in a live chat on Twitter and Facebook, he was optimistic that the first doses of a safe and effective vaccine may be available to health care workers and high-risk Americans by the end of the year, according to Reuters. But life will likely not get back to normal “until the end of 2021 at least,” he said.

Medicare will pay for COVID-19 vaccine at no cost to beneficiaries

Meanwhile, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) along with the Departments of Labor and the Treasury, announced this week that it is laying the groundwork now to ensure immediate access, coverage, and payment for a preventive COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes available. Under the interim final rule, Medicare will cover vaccines that receive Food and Drug Administration approval, at no cost to Medicare, Medicare Advantage and Medicaid beneficiaries. Copays and deductibles will be waived.

CMS released a toolkit for Medicare Advantage plans to answer questions about the vaccines, including coding, reimbursement, and operational considerations.