US Coronavirus: There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but the coming months will be the worst case scenario for Covid-19, says expert

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What will come next is probably the “worst case scenario in the country in terms of overwhelmed hospitals, in terms of the number of deaths,” according to emergency doctor Dr Leana Wen.

“There are so many viruses in our communities right now,” she says.

It is a sad reality already reflected in the figures. The past two days have each seen more than 200,000 new cases per day. And as the number of infections increases, the United States has added a million cases to its total every six days for the past three weeks.

Hospitalizations also hit six figures for the first time this week, with now more than 100,600 patients with Covid-19 across the country, according to the COVID follow-up project.

And for the second day in a row, Thursday, the United States reported more than 2,800 Covid-19-related deaths, breaking a grim record the country set the day before.

Health systems under strain

Key health officials have long warned that the increase in cases would be followed by an increase in hospital admissions that could cripple health systems across the country. Hospitals and experts across the United States are now sounding the alarm bells.

Marvin O’Quinn, president and chief operating officer of CommonSpirit Health, which operates hospitals in 21 states, told CNN that the number of patients is increasing at each hospital.

“We are now at about 2,100 positive cases in our hospitals. That’s an increase of almost 70% since Nov. 11, ”O’Quinn said. “We see around 70 to 100 new cases every day. ”

A nurse and six family members have Covid-19.  And it started with a little act of kindness

In Pennsylvania, just under 5,000 people are hospitalized for Covid-19 and two parts of the state are closing in on staff shortages, Health Secretary Dr Rachel Levine said Thursday.

“It’s so important to remember that we all need to be aware, that we all have a role to play in what’s going on in hospitals right now,” Levine said. “You may not need hospital care right now; you may not have a loved one in the hospital right now. But what happens in our hospitals has a direct impact on you. This has a direct impact on the mitigation actions you need to take. in order to contain the spread of the virus. ”

“The people who make our health care system work are counting on you to do the right thing,” she continued.

In Ohio, Governor Mike DeWine warned that hospitals were not only in crisis, but “the crisis is getting worse and worse”.

Dr Andy Thomas, of Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center, told reporters that a third of intensive care patients statewide tested positive for Covid-19. In some rural hospitals, Covid-19 patients made up up to 60% of the intensive care population, Thomas added.

“It’s not viable for these hospitals to be able to manage,” Thomas said. “The most difficult area for hospitals to increase their capacity or increase their number of beds is intensive care. ”

Black, Hispanic and Native American workers and their families at higher risk of exposure to coronavirus, report saysBlack, Hispanic and Native American workers and their families at higher risk of exposure to coronavirus, report says

And hospitals across the country have yet to see the impacts Thanksgiving gatherings and trips could have – with another surge expected to start to take shape in the coming weeks.

Michael Osterholm, a member of President-elect Joe Biden’s Transition Covid-19 advisory committee, said action was urgently needed to help curb the spread and prevent hospitals from being ‘overrun’.

“I’d rather do it now and try to avoid future cases rather than wait and try to set it up when the house is so on fire that in fact we’ve stepped over the cliff of our cases and hospitals are literally overrun, ”he said. “This is what we are up against.”

New strict measures

In California, hospitals treat around 2,066 patients with Covid-19 in intensive care units, according to data from the state’s health department. This is the highest figure since the start of the pandemic.
The grim figure comes as Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a strict regional stay-at-home order. The order will take effect 48 hours after the hospital’s intensive care unit capacity drops below 15% in one of five regions divided into: Northern California, Bay Area, Greater Sacramento, San Joaquin Valley and Southern California.
California issues regional home support order to fight record Covid-19 surgeCalifornia issues regional home support order to fight record Covid-19 surge

Projections show that four of those five regions will hit that threshold in the next few days, with only the Bay Area set to remain open until mid-December, Newsom said.

“We are at a crossroads in our fight against the virus and we must take decisive action now to prevent the California hospital system from being overwhelmed in the weeks to come,” he said.

Delaware Gov. John Carney announced a stay-at-home notice on Thursday, asking residents to avoid indoor gatherings with anyone outside their home from Dec. 14 to Jan. 11. The state will also require residents to wear a covering cloth whenever they are indoors with someone who is not in their home, the governor’s office said.
“A vaccine is on the way but, make no mistake, we are facing the most difficult few months of this crisis,” the governor said in a statement. “I know we’re all tired of COVID-19 – but it’s not tired of us. We implore the Delawareans to do the right thing. “

Meanwhile, the Navajo Nation lockdown that expires at the end of this weekend will now be extended for three weeks.

“Our health care experts are now saying that the current wave or surge is much more serious and troublesome than the wave we saw in April and May,” President Jonathan Nez said in a written statement on Thursday.

Under the lockdown, Navajo citizens were required to stay in their homes at all times, except for essential activities, emergencies, and outdoor exercises.

Governors expect first doses of vaccine to arrive soon

Meanwhile, local and state leaders have started giving information on when they expect their first batches of vaccine to arrive. No vaccine has yet received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Thursday the city is expected to receive the first round of Covid-19 vaccines in about 12 days. The initial doses will come from Pfizer and about a week later the city will receive vaccines from Moderna, de Blasio said.

The priority will be to give vaccines to high-risk health workers and to workers and residents of retirement homes, the mayor said.

When can I get the coronavirus vaccine?When can I get the coronavirus vaccine?

“In time, there will be enough vaccines for everyone,” de Blasio said, but for now the city is working on the “fastest and most efficient distribution”.

In New Hampshire, the governor announced that the state expects to receive the first doses of the Pfizer vaccine during the third week of December, adding that the Moderna vaccine will come the following week.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has said he expects around 300,000 doses of a Covid-19 vaccine by the end of the month. Healthcare workers and residents and staff at long-term care facilities “are absolutely going to be at the top of the list” for first doses, Baker said, as the state prepares to officially release its plan for distribution Friday.

Redfield, head of the CDC, accepted the recommendations of the Covid-19 vaccine that were voted on this week by the agency’s advisory committee on immunization practices.
Councilors voted 13-1 Tuesday to recommend that healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities be first in line for any vaccine cleared by the FDA. But senior federal health officials say the CDC guidelines are just that – guidelines.

States can use these recommendations along with the advice of other experts to develop the best allocation plans for their residents, based on their own circumstances, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Thursday.

What challenges remain to be overcome

Senior health officials are constantly working to determine how distributing a vaccine would work best in different communities, once the green light is obtained.

“There is a huge gap between a loading dock and an individual’s arm,” said Rick Bright, a member of Biden’s Covid-19 transition advisory committee. “We are looking very closely at the complex pathway between vaccine manufacturing and the delivery and administration of this vaccine.

Vaccination cards will be issued to all who receive the Covid-19 vaccine, health officials sayVaccination cards will be issued to all who receive the Covid-19 vaccine, health officials say

“We understand that there is still a lot of work to be done at the local level, state level and tribal and territorial level to ensure that there is an infrastructure in place to be able to administer these vaccines, to make sure there are people in place and trained to be able to administer these vaccines, ”he said. In addition, he said, there is still work going on to ensure that there are messengers in each community who are briefing residents. "in all the languages ​​needed to make sure that people can understand the value of this vaccine and trust this vaccine and stand in line to take it. "

The biggest challenge remains, according to Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, co-chair of the advisory committee. “In some of our hardest hit communities, we know there is a certain degree of reluctance and caution around vaccines,” she told NBC News.

“What we need to do is find out what questions people are asking,” she said. “At the same time, we must recognize that trust has deteriorated between Americans and the federal government and that it will take work to rebuild and restore that trust. ”

Andrea Diaz, Taylor Romine, Andy Rose, Cheri Mossburg, Rebekah Riess, Ganesh Setty, Shelby Lin Erdman, Sahar Akbarzai, Jon Passantino and Evan Simko-Bednarski contributed to this report.

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