Hospitals across the United States are increasingly overwhelmed and people are dying in record numbers once again – even as the United States and state officials rush to get life-saving doses of the vaccine to across the country. December is already the second deadliest month in the pandemic in the United States, with more than 42,500 deaths from Covid-19 on Thursday and with two weeks into the month, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
When the pandemic began in April, hospitals in the New York City area were overwhelmed with Covid patients, and doctors were unsure of how to treat them. The country also did not test as many people for the virus in April, so the death toll for that month could be higher than the original data, epidemiologists warn.
The United States currently reports more than 2,600 deaths per day, on a weekly average basis, compared to an average of around 2,025 deaths per day in April.
Dr Syra Madad, senior director of the system-wide special pathogens program at New York City Health + Hospitals, called the latest outbreak of Covid a “terrible case of déjà vu.”
“It’s a terrible post-traumatic stress disorder, knowing that we were first on the front line and in the epicenter, and now that the entire nation is not learning from the lessons of the North East,” a- she said in a telephone interview. “You can’t have the magical thought that the virus is going to go away on its own without having a containment and mitigation strategy. ”
She added that the epidemic would continue to get worse before it got better, based on current trends.
“If you don’t do anything, things will absolutely get worse,” she said. “When cases are endemic we have to put restrictions in place, but I think we can be a lot more strategic because we have learned a lot about how the virus is spread.
People need to stay tight and limit their interactions with others as the country works to roll out the vaccine, Madad said.
“We have an incredible scientific achievement that healthcare workers across the country are benefiting from,” Dr Leana Wen, a former Baltimore health commissioner, said in a telephone interview. “At the same time, we are also seeing unprecedented numbers of people falling ill, hospitalized and dying. ”
The country reported more than 233,200 new infections as of Thursday, according to data from Hopkins, and more than 3,200 deaths. Many hospitals across the country are running out of available intensive care units, standard beds and staff to handle the surge in patient numbers, according to data released by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Large states like Texas, Illinois, Pennsylvania and California each reported nearly 3,000 or more deaths this month, which is a significant portion of the national total. But many small states have been disproportionately affected by the virus, with North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, New Mexico and Kansas topping the list when adjusting population.
Despite some signs of a daily slowdown in new cases in the Midwest, the number of new cases continues to rise across the country, reaching a new high of nearly 217,000 average cases per day on Thursday.
“Basically what we are seeing now is the worst case scenario of what we predicted several months ago. It is the deadly winter that we believe could be the case if people did not take the necessary steps to protect themselves and their loved ones. Said Wen, an emergency physician and professor of public health at George Washington University.
Some state and local officials are implementing new restrictions to curb the spread of the virus and prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed. California Governor Gavin Newsom has issued orders that trigger restrictions when areas of the state reach a certain level of intensive care occupancy. Several regions have triggered new home orders.
And New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has called for more restrictions in recent days, saying “all forms of restrictions must be on the table.” He pitched the idea of a severe restriction after Christmas, while Gov. Andrew Cuomo said restrictions could arrive in New York in January, if current trends continue.
As officials consider implementing new restrictions, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called on Americans not to travel for Christmas and to limit all non-essential travel.
“I am extremely concerned about Christmas,” Wen said. “The virus level is so high across the country and I just hope people keep in mind that the end is not far away. We just have to spend this vacation and this winter.
– CNBC Nate Rattner contributed to this report.