BOISE, Idaho (AP) – The United States nears a record number of new daily coronavirus cases in the latest worrying sign of the disease’s grip on the country, as Connecticut states to Rocky Mountain West under the outbreak.
The impact is being felt in all parts of the country – a lockdown from Friday at the Oglala Sioux tribe reservation in South Dakota, a plea from a Florida health official to stop the holidays children’s birthday parties, dire warnings from the Utah governor and a desperate situation at a hospital in northern Idaho, which lacks patient space and is considering airlifts to Seattle or Portland, Oregon.
“We basically closed an entire floor of our hospital. We had to make double rooms. We bought more hospital beds, ”said Dr Robert Scoggins, pulmonologist at Kootenai Health Hospital in Coeur d’Alene. “Our hospital is not built for a pandemic.”
In the town of Twin Falls, in southern Idaho, Magic Valley Medical Center in St. Luke has said it will no longer accept children as it is overwhelmed with coronavirus patients. With the exception of newborns, all children under the age of 18 will be sent 206 kilometers away to Boise.
Among those in northern Idaho who joined Scoggins at a meeting of the Panhandle Health District of Idaho was board member Walk Kirby.
“People are dying, they’re going to keep dying and catching this stuff,” Kirby said. “How many people will not wear a mask?” The same people who will not be vaccinated for this.
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert proclaimed “a record day for Utah – but not a good day” on Friday as COVID-19 cases hit a record high for the state.
“So far, our hospitals have been able to provide good care to all COVID and non-COVID patients who need it,” he said. “But today we are on the brink. If the Utahans do not take serious steps to limit group gatherings and wear masks, our health care providers will not have the capacity to provide quality care to all who need it.
By public health order, masks are required in 21 counties, Herbert said, urging Utah residents to wear one whenever they are around someone outside of their immediate home.
The seven-day moving average of new daily COVID-19 cases in the United States topped 61,140 on Thursday, up from 44,647 two weeks ago. The record was hit on July 22 when the moving average was 67,293 amid a summer outbreak largely due to virus outbreaks in Florida, Texas, Arizona and California.
The United States recorded 71,671 new cases on Thursday, with several states setting records in the Midwest and West.
The U.S. outbreak reflects an equally widespread spike in Europe, where Rome, Paris and other major cities are taming nightlife as part of increasingly drastic measures taken to slow the spread of the pandemic. French authorities have said the country has recorded more than one million confirmed cases of the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, becoming the second Western European country after Spain to reach that number.
The head of the World Health Organization has warned that countries in the northern hemisphere are at a “critical time” as cases and deaths continue to rise.
“The next few months are going to be very difficult and some countries are on a dangerous path,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press briefing on Friday.
Some of the latest developments in the United States:
DAKOTA DU SUD
In South Dakota, the Oglala Sioux tribe has ordered a weeklong lockdown of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in response to an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in the state. Until the morning of October 30, all non-essential travel is banned and non-essential businesses must close.
The tribe posted on its Twitter page that there were 391 active COVID-19 cases on Thursday on the reserve, which has around 20,000 residents.
The lockdown comes as South Dakota surpassed 9,000 active coronavirus cases on Thursday and reported a record high of 973 new cases in one day.
The senior health official in one of Florida’s most populous counties has discouraged parents from throwing birthday parties for their children of all sizes.
Dr Raul Pino, head of public health for Orange County, said half of the 30 attendees at a recent Sweet 16 party in the Orlando area had contracted the virus. Last month, a high school in Orange County closed for two weeks after students who attended a birthday party tested positive.
“These parties will not only affect the people participating in this activity, but also everyone else they come into contact with when they leave,” Pino said. “We will continue to see the consequences if we do not act in an extremely responsible manner.”
In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott is sending more medical reinforcements to the El Paso area in response to an upsurge in coronavirus infections. The Texas Department of State Health Services and the Texas Emergency Management Division will provide more medical personnel and equipment this week.
El Paso County reported 3,750 new coronavirus infections this week, including 1,161 on Thursday. That number represents 17.5% of the 21,321 cases reported this week by the state’s 254 counties.
As the health care situation worsened in northern Idaho, a regional health council voted to repeal a local mask mandate. He acted moments after hearing how the Kootenai Health Hospital in Coeur d’Alene had reached 99% of capacity.
Kootenai is the third most populous county in conservative Idaho.
The state is experiencing its largest peak of coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, with new cases increasing by 46.5% statewide in the past two weeks. Gov. Brad Little, a Republican, refused to take measures such as requiring masks statewide to slow the spread of the virus.
Full coverage: Virus outbreak
Dr Joshua Kern, vice president of St. Luke’s in the Magic Valley area which includes Twin Falls and Jerome, told a virtual press conference Thursday that he and other medical professionals were afraid.
“The goal of any intervention around the coronavirus has been to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed, and I say today that the hospital is overwhelmed,” he said.
A day later on Friday, his hospital announced the decision to send younger patients to Boise.
NEW JERSEY and CONNECTICUT
For a while, as new cases of COVID-19 increased in the Midwest and elsewhere, the level of new cases remained low in the Northeast, which had been hit hard earlier in the pandemic. Several states, including New Jersey and Connecticut, have imposed 14-day quarantine requirements for travelers arriving from dozens of states with higher rates of positive tests.
This week, however, rates in New Jersey and Connecticut rose to the point of qualifying for their own quarantine restrictions.
After some confusion, the Democratic governors of New Jersey, Connecticut and New York, where rates remain lower, have decided to keep their travel rules in place, but not to be added to their quarantine lists.
Crary reported from New York. Associated Press editors Amy Forliti in Minneapolis; Dave Collins in Hartford, Connecticut, Brady McCombs in Salt Lake City, and Freida Frisaro in Orlando, Florida contributed to this report.