In several states where the virus has surged in recent weeks, the death toll is edging up. That may end a long period in which the national toll has steadily declined.
The daily number of deaths from the coronavirus has risen recently in some of the nation’s most populous states, leaving behind grieving families and signaling a possible end to months of declining death totals nationally.
In Texas, officials announced 119 deaths on Wednesday, surpassing a daily record for deaths in the pandemic that the state had set only a day earlier. In Arizona, more than 200 deaths have been announced already this week, and the daily virus death toll in the state reached higher than ever. Mississippi, Florida and Tennessee also set single-day death records this week.
Among those who died of the virus in recent days was a 30-year-old man from Nashville who played the organ in church; a 39-year-old mother from St. Augustine, Fla., who told her six children goodbye on a hospital speaker phone; and a 91-year-old grandmother from Dallas, who played a mean game of dominoes.
The seven-day death average in the United States reached 608 on Thursday, up from 471 earlier in July, but still a fraction of the more than 2,200 deaths the country averaged each day in mid-April, when the situation in the Northeast was at its worst.
Some health experts cautioned that it was too early to predict a continuing trend from only a few days of data. But on Friday, Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, struck a different tone than President Trump has in recent days, saying that she expects to soon see an increase in deaths.
“In the United States, we have increased number of cases over the last particularly three weeks,” Dr. Birx said during a virtual panel on the virus organized by the International AIDS Society. “We have not seen this result in increased mortality, but that is expected as the disease continues to spread in some of our large metro areas where comorbidities exist.”
The rising pace of deaths in the Sunbelt followed weeks of mounting cases in the region and suggested an end to the country’s nearly three-month period of declines in daily counts of virus deaths — a pattern that had been seen as one of the rare bright spots in the nation’s virus outlook.
That steadily downward trend in daily deaths began in April after states instituted stay-at-home orders and it continued through June after states reopened their economies. The decline had continued over the past month even as cases of the virus skyrocketed in the South and West.
Deaths occur weeks after infections, so any rise in deaths would be expected to come later than a rise in cases. But public health experts said the diverging trends — newly rising cases but still declining daily deaths — had occurred largely because the new surge of virus cases also involved many younger and healthier people, who were less likely to become seriously ill or die. Still, many experts predicted that the declining death tolls were unlikely to last because the young would spread it to older people and those more vulnerable.