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Wisconsin breaks Covid-19 records as hospitals brace for flu season

MADISON, Wis. – Inside UW Health, the Covid-19 units keep growing — and the stress is rising.

“The people we’re seeing in here are very sick,” nurse Katie Lanoway said. “They are lonely. They are dealing with this alone and it’s becoming increasingly harder for us to try to manage, and playing all these different roles: playing the nurse, playing the support person. It’s very difficult.”

NBC News received a rare tour of one of thee units, which had previously reached its capacity of 28 beds. It’s currently down to about 20 patients. At first, the unit stretched just one hallway. Now, it’s four.

Image: Dr Gavinski (NBC News)
Image: Dr Gavinski (NBC News)

On Friday, Wisconsin reported a seven-day rolling average of its positivity rate: 22.7 percent. (That’s the percentage of tests that come back positive.) The same rate in New York is currently barely above 1 percent — and even that’s considered risky.

Wisconsin also set several records: most cases in a seven-day period (24,292)l the highest average cases per day (3,470) and the highest average coronavirus-related deaths per day (24).

Almost all of the state’s 72 counties now have what public health officials say is a “very high” level of the virus.

“It’s terrifying,” said Dr. Katie Gavinski, who started working at UW Health in Madison this summer. “I’m very scared that if this doesn’t stop soon, we’re going to end up with a much bigger problem come winter and flu season.”

The shifts are taking their toll.

“It’s devastating to see someone struggling to breathe,” Gavinski said. “You can see the fear in their eyes. You can see how scared they are.”

UW Health has had months to prepare, putting it in a better position than most. It has adequate personal protective equipment and it has the space to be able to rearrange Covid-19 wards. But if the flu season creates another surge of patients, staffing could be a challenge.

Dr. Jeff Pothof is UW Health’s chief quality officer and an emergency medicine physician.

“What I can’t do by the snap of my fingers is create critical care nurses, create critical care physicians and bring their expertise to the bedside,” he said.

Just across town, the Big Ten conference is set to kick off its college football season Friday night. There will be no fans in the stadium, no tailgating allowed and police plan to enforce rules banning outdoor gatherings of more than 25 people.

Image: UW Hospital Madison (NBC News)
Image: UW Hospital Madison (NBC News)

But health care workers have an urgent warning for those who don’t plan to take the virus seriously and will congregate anyway.

“The Badger game this evening does worry us,” Pothof said. “We have a very healthy culture of celebrating the Badgers, tailgating, parties — and if that happens this year, with how much Covid is in our communities, it is certain to cause a super-spreader event. … We need to celebrate the Badgers, but we need to do it differently.”

Compared to the beginning of the pandemic,

Concerns rise as coronavirus, flu season overlap

Flu season has officially begun in the United States, but many are still wondering how the global coronavirus pandemic may exacerbate its effect. Medical professionals are referring to the confluence as a “twindemic.”

“We know that flu seasons can be very severe and historically, can lead to thousands of deaths every year,” said Dr. Nicole Iovine, an epidemiologist at the University of Florida. “That added on to the ongoing pandemic … is extremely, extremely concerning,”

For some, it may be hard to recognize which symptoms go with each illness.

CORONAVIRUS DEATHS 5 TIMES HIGHER THAN FLU IN HOSPITALIZED PATIENTS, CDC SAYS

“Influenza typically will have a pretty sudden onset. You might feel okay in the morning and then feel really bad by the evening and coronavirus does more of a slow burn, so to speak. So that can sort of start out very, very mild and stay mild for days and days and some people will just get better, but others will become severely ill, typically in the second week of illness,” Iovine said.

Dr. Marissa Levine, a professor of public health at the University of South Florida, said there is a silver lining. With travel down and social distancing up, doctors say this year’s flu season may be less severe because of the safety measures already in use for COVID-19.

With travel down and social distancing up, doctors say this year’s flu season may be less severe because of the safety measures already in place for COVID.

With travel down and social distancing up, doctors say this year’s flu season may be less severe because of the safety measures already in place for COVID.
(Elina Shirazi)

“The symptoms are very similar, so the best advice I can give is you don’t want either,” Levine said. “They’re both respiratory infections. So if we keep our distance, if we use face coverings, if we wash our hands and do all the hygienic activities we’ve talked about, we could actually see a very limited flu season.”

Levine said events on the other side of the world — in regions that have already experienced winter — may help predict what we’ll face. 

“Australia, for example, reported a very mild flu season, and some people believe that’s related to all of the precautions for COVID. It’s not a guarantee, it’s a hopeful sign,” Levine said.

Doctors want people to wear their masks, keep socially distant and with rare exceptions, get their flu shots this year.

Doctors want people to wear their masks, keep socially distant and with rare exceptions, get their flu shots this year.
(Elina Shirazi)

Iovine said one of the worst-case scenarios is having community outbreak of both COVID-19 and the flu at the same time. A new test from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) checks for both viruses with one swab. Doctors at the University of Florida Health say they plan to use it soon.

“One of the reasons we really need these tests, who can distinguish between flu and coronavirus, is that it’s because the symptoms overlap,” Iovine said.

CLICK HERE FOR COMPLETE CORONAVIRUS COVERAGE

Doctors want people to wear their masks, keep socially distant and with rare exceptions, get their flu shots this year.

Iovine says one of the worst case scenarios is having both COVID and the flu at the same time. A new CDC test checks for both viruses with one swab. Doctors at University of Florida Health say they plan to use it soon.

Iovine says one of the worst case

CVS adding 15,000 employees ahead of flu season, coronavirus vaccine rollout

CVS Health announced Monday that the company would hire thousands of workers to fill positions ahead of an anticipated rise in coronavirus and seasonal flu cases this fall and the rollout of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The company said in a statement that the hirings would take place across the fourth quarter of 2020. Many of the positions are temporary with the potential of being extended to full employment.

“Additional team members typically are needed every flu season,” said Lisa Bisaccia, the company’s top HR official. “However, we’re estimating a much greater need for trained pharmacy technicians this year given the continued presence of COVID-19 in our communities.”

“These jobs offer a rewarding career opportunity, with flexible hours, advancement potential and a supportive environment while helping people on their path to better health,” Bisaccia added.

CVS executives added in the news release that the company was advocating for regulations to be amended to allow for pharmacy technicians to administer vaccines under the supervision of a certified pharmacist, a move CVS argued would “help fill the urgent need to safely and quickly scale distribution of a vaccine and extend the capacity of the health care workforce to address the pandemic.”

“By leveraging CVS Health’s innovation and technology, we can help get more Americans back to work from the convenience of their own homes, where they can contribute to the company’s ongoing efforts to help solve the country’s health care challenges,” said Jeffrey Lackey, CVS’s vice president of talent acquisition.

More than 8 million Americans have been infected with coronavirus since the pandemic began. The White House launched Operation Warp Speed, a program aimed at providing funding and cutting red tape for companies working to develop vaccines and treatments for COVID-19, earlier this year but it remains unclear if a workable vaccine will finish development this year.

Pfizer, a leading company at work developing a COVID-19 vaccine, said in recent days that it would not seek emergency authorization for its vaccine before the election, a possibility that President TrumpDonald John TrumpPolice say man dangling off Trump Tower Chicago demanding to speak with Trump Fauci says he was ‘absolutely not’ surprised Trump got coronavirus after Rose Garden event Biden: Trump ‘continues to lie to us’ about coronavirus MORE has raised in recent months.

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Autumn season workouts with Teddy Savage from Planet Fitness

11-Fitness: Autumn workouts with Teddy Savage from Planet Fitness


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WITH A CHANCE FOR SHOWERS DEVELOPING FROM I DAY. JENNIFER: THANKS, TAYLOR. IT’S TIME FOR 11 FITNESS. JOINING US THIS MORNING, TEDDY SAVAGE FROM PLANET FITNESS. YOU HAVE A PUMPKIN WITH YOU TODAY. >> YES, INDEED, JEN. I’M GOING TO SHOW YOU ALL EVERYTHING THAT YOU CAN DO TO SPICE THINGS UP RIGHT NOW WITH THE PUMPKIN AND I’M NOT TALKING ABOUT SPICED LATTES EITHER. JENNIFER: YOU CAN PUMPKIN SPICE UP YOUR WORKOUT. WHAT DO WE DO? >> FIRST AND FOREMOST, GO AHEAD AND GRAB YOUR ORANGE TOOL FOR TODAY. IT’S GOING TO BE THE PUMPKIN. THE FIRST THING, WE’LL DO PUMPKIN JACKS. I WANT YOU TO SQUEEZE IT, KEEP THE ELBOWS IN TIGHT. AS YOU HOP THE LEGS OUT, PRESS THAT PUMPKIN UP ABOVE YOUR HEAD. PMAKE SURE YOU STAY ON THE BALLS OF YOUR FEET TO OFFSET INJURY. BREATHE IN THROUGH YOUR NOSE AND OUT THROUGH YOUR MOUTH. JEN, YOU’RE LIKE MAN, THIS PUMPKIN IS TOO HEAVY, LET ME PUT IT DOWN. WE PLACE IT DOWN AND DO A COUPLE OF TOE TAPS. I’M GOING TO TAP MY TOES AND GO SIDE TO SIDE. JENNIFER: YOU GOT MOVES. >> OH, YEAH. GOTTA HAVE THE MOVES EARLY IN THE MORNING. YOU’RE LIKE OKAY, AWESOME. I GOT MY HEART RATE UP, MY HIP FLEXORS ENGAGED. WE WANT TO DO PUMPKIN HIP SWINGS. WE’LL HAVE THE PUMPKIN HERE, SWING BETWEEN THE LEGS AND UP. JENNIFER: LIKE A KETTLE BELL. >> EXACTLY RIGHT. YOU SPEAK MY LANGUAGE. WE GOT PUMPKIN POWERED KETTLE BELL SWINGS. LASTLY, YOUR CAV THE PUMPKINS, BUT KEEP IT AWAY FROM YOUR SIBLING, A PUMPKIN DASH. JUST RUN AWAY WITH THE PUMPKIN. BUT DON’T RUN TOO FAR. IT’S A GREAT WAY TO HAVE FUN WITH PUMPKINS AND SPICE THINGS UP WHILE HAVING FUN ON THE HOLIDAY. JENNIFER: GRAB IT AND RUN RIGHT TO COLUMBIA, BECAUSE THERE’S A REASON THAT YOU’D WANT TO GO. >> ABSOLUTELY. ON OCTOBER 22, WE HAVE A GRAND OPENING EXTRAVAGANZA IN THE COLUMN COLUMBIA, MARYLAND LOCATION. YOU CAN WIN PRIZES, GET BLACK CARD AMENITIES FOR FREE. BRING A BUDDY FOR FREE. IF YOU UPGRADE YOUR MEMBERSHIP NOW OR REFER A FRIEND, NOW UNTIL OCTOBER 22, YOU GET THE REST OF THE YEAR FOR FREE. JENNIFER: OOH, THAT’S A GOOD BARGAIN. I’M ALL ABOUT FREEBIES. WHAT ARE THE — YOU SAID THE BLACK CARD UPGRADES OR AMENITIES? WHAT ARE THOSE. >> YOU GET FREE ACCESS TO THE BLACK CARD SPA AREA WITH HYDRO BEDS THERE THAT GIVE YOU A GREAT MASSAGE, TOTAL BODY. JENNIFER: FREE? >> FREE. I’M TALKING ABOUT NO MONEY AT ALL. AND RIGHT NOW, YOU CAN ACTUALLY SIGN UP IN COLUMBIA, ZERO DOLLARS DOWN, TEN DOLLARS A MONTH AND YOU GET A MONTH FOR FREE AS WELL. SO THOSE BLACK CARD AMENITIES INCLUDE, ALSO, TOTAL BODY ENHANCEMENT AND SO MUCH MORE. BUT I IMPLORE YOU, DON’T TAKE MY WORD FOR IT. COME IN

COVID cases likely to surge during holiday season due to ‘superspreader events’

Thanksgiving kicks off the annual season of celebration, but it will be no holiday for the coronavirus.

With the United States climbing toward what epidemiologists are calling a third peak of pandemic infections, public health experts fear gatherings of families and friends could make an already bad situation worse.

“Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, we’re having what I see as potentially six weeks of superspreader events, right, in which we’re going to be getting together with family and friends,” Dr. Carlos del Rio, an infectious diseases expert at the Emory University School of Medicine, warned. “And we can see a lot of disease happening.”

Del Rio sounded the alarm during an NBC News Facebook Live interview with Dr. John Torres, NBC News contributor, as the number of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. surged past 8 million and deaths due to the coronavirus climbed to a world-leading 218,097.

“So, I’m really worried that we are facing some of the toughest times in this pandemic in our country,” del Rio said.

He said President Donald Trump was sending the wrong message to Americans with his cavalier attitude toward COVID-19, his repeated boasts about being “immune” since he was released from the hospital and his refusal to consistently wear a mask at public events and campaign rallies.

“The president got infected and did remarkably well for his age,” del Rio said of Trump, who is 74. “He was treated with everything but the kitchen sink, but he’s recovered. He’s done well. So the president at this point in time is saying, ‘Hey, this is no big deal. If you get infected, nothing happens.’”

In other coronavirus news:

  • Trump made the inaccurate claim that “85 percent of the people wearing masks” still catch the coronavirus, during an interview Thursday on the Fox Business Network. He cited as evidence a federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. But a day earlier, the CDC tweeted that “the interpretation that more mask-wearers are getting infected compared to non-mask wearers is incorrect.”

  • While the White House has been pushing for approval of a COVID-19 vaccine before Election Day, the drugmaker Pfizer said it will not apply for emergency use authorization for its vaccine candidate until at least the third week of November. “We are operating at the speed of science,” Pfizer CEO Dr. Albert Bourla said.

  • The federal budget deficit under Trump hit an all-time high of $3.1 trillion in the 2020 budget year as the pandemic shrank tax revenues and government spending soared. That’s more than double the previous record set in 2009 when the Obama administration shored-up the banking system to limit damage from the recession that began on President George W. Bush’s watch.

  • Eight million Americans have slipped into poverty as a result of the pandemic, according to a new study.

  • Hawaii is saying aloha to tourists again, but only if they test negative before they get on the plane.

  • The Navajo Nation in Arizona is using the sun and the wind to