The Northeast Held the Virus in Check. Now Cases Are Inching Up Again.

Since the spring, case numbers in the Northeast have plummeted over all. The region, which runs from Maine to Pennsylvania, is averaging about 60 deaths per day, the lowest in the nation, according to the Covid Tracking Project. Some 2,800 people are in a hospital in the region, accounting for 8 percent of the hospitalizations nationwide. Those figures are tiny compared with the spring, when tens of thousands of people in the Northeast were hospitalized on any given day, and morgues were running out of body bags.

Still, the number of people in hospitals — a clear measure of those most seriously affected by an outbreak — is starting to trend slightly upward again in the Northeast. About 1,000 more people are in hospitals than last month, and daily reports of new cases have started climbing once again, leading to fears about what the winter might bring.

“Places like New York and other states in the Northeast could have more of the classic second wave phenomenon,” said Dr. Larry Chang, an infectious-disease expert at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, who said he was bracing for more outbreaks this fall. “Pretty much everybody expects things to get somewhat worse.”

There may be a number of reasons for the upward trend in cases. The air turned suddenly chilly in the past few weeks, forcing people who had been lounging in sunny parks indoors. Students returned to schools and college campuses. And Northeasterners, who were among the first to take the virus seriously, may simply be growing weary after months of social distancing and wearing masks, even to walk outside.

“We’re all kind of exhausted with it,” said Danielle Ompad, an infectious-disease epidemiologist at New York University. “We have to acknowledge that this is not easy.”

The first glimpse of a resurgence has troubled public health experts and the region’s many coronavirus survivors alike.

“I’m still coming around from this,” said Laura Gross, 72, of Fort Lee, N.J., who contracted the virus in March and is still seeing doctors and struggling with significant fatigue. With cases on the rise, she fears what might happen to her next. Most people who get the virus develop antibodies, although it is unclear how long immunity lasts.

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