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Nearly half the country experiencing spike in coronavirus cases

As many cities enter the yet another phase of reopening, a new wave of infections has one capital city rolling back plans.
/ Source: TODAY

In many parts of the country, old routines are returning as more and more businesses open their doors and restrictions put in place due to the coronavirus pandemic are relaxed. But reopening plans don’t mean the problems are over.

In fact, in the midst of the push for a return to normal, nearly half the country is experiencing a new wave of infections, with one state seeing it’s highest spike yet and one capital city turning back the clock on its reopening plans.

Nashville was on the cusp of phase three of its reopening proposal when mayor John Cooper revealed that the recent uptick in cases of COVID-19 in the city’s southeast region necessitated pausing the plan.

“So we will continue, hopefully, just a little bit longer with phase two, while carefully observing our public health data every day,” Cooper said Thursday.

Meanwhile plans in the state of Florida continue, despite the fact that the state experienced its largest single-day spike in new coronavirus cases since the outbreak began — 1,698 new cases — on Thursday.

As NBC News correspondent Tom Costello explained on TODAY, 14 states have reported a 25% increase in cases, and Arizona alone has seen a 93% spike over the past week. And while a portion of those results can be attributed to increased testing, there’s still much to be learned about the current rate of transmission — and about the future of getting it under control.

To that end, many companies are working to develop a vaccine and one, Moderna, stated in a press release this week that it will enter the third and final testing phase of its mRNA vaccine candidate, with 30,000 subjects in July. The company also noted that it “remains on track to be able to deliver approximately 500 million doses per year, and possibly up to 1 billion doses per year, beginning in 2021…”

Johnson & Johnson and Oxford University are also expected to enter phase three with their own vaccine candidates this summer.

But before prevention is an option, doctors continue to face the challenges of treating the virus that can take a severe, and in some cases permanent, toll on the lungs.

Surgeons at Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Hospital performed a double-lung transplant on a COVID-19 patient in her 20s. It's believed to be the first time this procedure has been done in the U.S.

"Once the lungs get permanently damaged, they just don't get better,” Dr. Ankit Bharat, chief of thoracic surgery at Northwestern, explained when speaking to reporters Thursday.

The patient still has a long road to recovery ahead of her, but Bharat remains “extremely hopeful” about her prognosis.

“Yesterday she smiled and told me just one sentence. She said, 'Doc, thank you for not giving up on me.’” Bharat recalled “As health care providers, there's nothing more gratifying to hear.”