Watch the AMA's daily COVID-19 update, with insights from AMA leaders and experts about the pandemic.

In today’s COVID-19 update, AMA Chief Experience Officer Todd Unger and AMA Chief Health and Science Officer Mira Irons, MD, take a weekly look at the numbers and trends for COVID-19, including latest data that shows 33 million people have been diagnosed with the virus across the world and more than 1 million have died.

Learn more at the AMA COVID-19 resource center.


  • Mira Irons, MD, chief health and science officer, AMA


Unger: Hello, this is the American Medical Association's COVID-19 Update. Today we're taking our weekly look at the numbers, trends and latest news about COVID-19, with AMA Chief Health and Science Officer Dr. Mira Irons in Chicago. I'm Todd Unger, AMA's chief experience officer in Chicago. Dr. Irons, so let's start by reviewing the week's numbers. What's happening across the country with new cases and deaths?

Dr. Irons: Sure, Todd. The latest numbers from this morning are 7,150,824, individuals have been diagnosed with COVID in the United States. That's probably an under-representative number, an underestimate. But that's at least the reporting that we have. As you know, we passed a grim milestone last week with 200,000 deaths, and we're currently at 205,107. If you look at that globally however, it's another week with another grim milestone. We've had 33 million individuals diagnosed with COVID globally, and over 1 million people have died globally from the epidemic. If you look at the countries of greatest impact, India, the U.S., Brazil and Mexico, account for more than half of the world's total deaths.

Unger: Yeah, just for a bit of more perspective, on that 1 million death toll, how does that compare to the other diseases that we've seen strike across the world?

Dr. Irons: Yeah, it's greater than the number of people estimated to have died from malaria, influenza, cholera and measles combined, over that same period.

Unger: That's a pretty incredible statistic. What are you seeing on the state by state side? Any trends that we should be concerned about or?

Dr. Irons: Well, I think we've moved into the Heartland. As we've followed this pandemic around the United States, it started on the coasts and then new England, and then it moved to the Southern States. Now we're seeing this move into the Heartland. If you look at the states where you have more than 2000 cases a day, it's Texas, California, Wisconsin and Tennessee. Wisconsin had a big peak. Six States over 1000, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, Utah. When you start looking at Wisconsin, Utah, South Dakota, a big increase in cases. North Dakota, a big increase in cases. These are all areas that we've seen small upticks in activities that then turned into larger numbers.

Unger: Any sense of what's driving that?

Dr. Irons: Well, some South Dakota, North Dakota, some of the large rallies that have happened there. But a lot of the increase in numbers that we're seeing in the Heartland, just from colleges and schools. Many of the campuses are showing increases.

Unger: Well, that's actually a good segue. Let's talk a little bit more about those trends. What else do we have to, need to know regarding the return to school in both college and other levels, and what impact that's having?

Dr. Irons: Well, we're certainly seeing the impact. The "New York Times" is keeping track of this, and their latest survey, at least 130,000 COVID cases have been identified on campuses since the pandemic began. If you want to break that down a little, more than 35 colleges have reported, at least 1000 people diagnosed with COVID through the course of the pandemic since they opened, and more than 230 colleges have reported more than 100 cases. The same types of things are happening on campuses. Some campuses are testing and have hired their own contact racers. Some are isolating, some are quarantining.

Brigham Young University, just this past week, ended visiting hours in dorms and stopped intramural sports. University of Colorado, one of their larger campuses shifted temporarily to online learning. I think just different campuses, are trying to keep up with things as best as they can.

Unger: Now, in states where we've seen those numbers reduced, mask usage has been a big part of what's credited for that, but we still see it being an issue. There's been some recent research on the impact that masks can have. Can you talk about that?

Dr. Irons: Sure. If you remember back to March and April, we heard a lot about the modelers and about groups that were modeling the impact of the surges early on. The University of Washington was one of the groups that we heard about a lot as modeling the epidemic. They recently indicated that if 95% of people wore masks up to 100,000 deaths could be avoided by the end of the year, when we're worried about the flu and COVID and COVID surges, and are estimating that only about 45% of people are wearing masks. It's still a problem.

Unger: That's an enormous challenge, given we're at 200,000 right now. 100,000 lives [could be] saved, that's enormous.

Dr. Irons: Yeah.

Unger: Finally, can you talk a little bit about trends with younger people, we're seeing as being a primary driver? What does the research say there?

Dr. Irons: Well, what we're finding, as you might expect, in the United States and Europe, 20 to 39-olds make up a growing percentage of COVID cases that are being diagnosed. Even though the condition, they may be more mildly effected, than people who are older or those with co-morbidities, they can still transmit the virus. Younger people interacting with relatives, with older relatives, people with co-morbidities, can actually transmit the virus,

Unger: Dr. Irons, a number of other news developments over the last week. Can you speak to any of the misconceptions that need to be cleared up?

Dr. Irons: There are, people are talking about herd immunity, and how many people need to have herd immunity in order for the virus to be decreased. Many of the studies that have been done around the country, still show that less than 10% of the population has been affected and has antibodies. You really need up where, about 75% of the population in order for herd to immunity to be effective.

Unger: We're a long way off from that, is what you're saying?

Dr. Irons: We are a long way off. People are still susceptible. The majority of people in the United States are still susceptible to the virus. So, we are a long way off.

Unger: So, continued use of a hand-washing, distancing, mask continues to be incredibly important. Can you tell us in light of that, about the retraction by the CDC regarding aerosol transmission and what's what's going on there?

Dr. Irons: Yeah. Well, this has been, it's been a debated topic really since early on in the pandemic, with a lot of the, the primary mode of transmission is by droplets, but there have been studies done that have showed that quite often, those droplets actually can continue to be present in aerosol form, smaller, smaller droplets, for longer distances and longer periods of time. But we haven't actually heard anything, any guidance from the CDC about this. Then, last week, some guidance was actually put up and then was taken down, and it's unclear what the reason was behind that, but we're still waiting to hear more on that.

Unger: Okay. Finally, any major messages from the AMA that you want people to hear this week?

Dr. Irons: Well, last week, as you know, the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association and the American Nurses Association issued a joint statement on the somber milestone that we marked, that more than 200,000 people in the United States had died, and reinforced that message. Wear a mask, wash your hands, practice physical distancing, behaviors are really, really important. The other message is get your flu shot. Get your flu shot as early as possible. Now is the time to get flu shots. It's important for everybody to always get a flu shot, but even more important this year, given the impact, of potential of COVID also in play.

Unger: Absolutely. Well, thank you so much, Dr. Irons for being here today. That's it for today's COVID-19 update. We'll see you tomorrow for another segment. For updated resources on COVID-19 visit Thanks for joining us. Please, take care.

Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed in this video are those of the participants and/or do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the AMA.

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