Tag: virus

 

Short of medics as virus surges, central Europe sounds alarm

KYJOV, Czech Republic (AP) — Soldiers in Poland are giving coronavirus tests. American National Guard troops with medical training are headed to the Czech Republic to work alongside doctors there. A Czech university student is running blood samples to labs, and the mayor of the capital is taking shifts at a hospital.

With cases surging in many central European countries, firefighters, students and retired doctors are being asked to help shore up buckling health care systems.

“This is actually terrifying,” Dr. Piotr Suwalski, the head of the cardiac surgery ward at a Polish hospital said on a day when daily COVID-19 cases rose 20% nationwide. “I think if we continue to gain 20% a day, no system can withstand it.”


Even before the pandemic, many countries in the region faced a tragic shortage of medical personnel due to years of underfunding in their public health sectors and an exodus of doctors and nurses to better paying jobs in Western Europe after the nations joined the European Union in 2004. Now, with the virus ripping through their hospitals, many health workers have been sickened, compounding the shortfall.

Over 13,200 medical personnel across the Czech Republic have been infected, including 6,000 nurses and 2,600 doctors, according to the doctors’ union.

It’s not just clinicians these countries need. Both Poland and the Czech Republic are building field hospitals as beds fill up on wards, and authorities say there are only 12 ventilators left in all hospitals taking COVID-19 patients in the region around Warsaw, the Polish capital.

This may sound familiar, but not for these countries. Many in the region imposed tough restrictions in the spring — including sealing borders and closing schools, stores and restaurants — and saw very low infection rates even as the virus killed tens of thousands in Western Europe.

But now many central European countries are seeing an onslaught similar to the one their western neighbors experienced — and the same dire warnings.

As he announced new restrictions last week, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis put a date on when his country’s health system would collapse, if the new regulations were not imposed to slow the virus’s spread: between Nov. 7 and 11.

With one of the highest infection rates in Europe, the Czech Republic’s hospitals are desperately looking for volunteers. The government is deploying thousands of medical students to hospitals and other students to testing sites.

In the capital of Prague, Mayor Zdenek Hrib, who has a degree in medicine, volunteered to help do initial exams of possible coronavirus patients at a university hospital. Soon, 28 medical personnel from the Nebraska and Texas national guards are expected to arrive to help treat patients at Prague’s military hospital and a new field hospital at the city’s exhibition ground.

Croatia has asked former doctors to come out of retirement to help in hospitals, while Slovenia has put retired physicians and current medical students on standby in case its situation deteriorates.

Poland, meanwhile, is mobilizing soldiers to conduct COVID-19 testing,

Virus arrives in once-clear Marshall Islands

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The Marshall Islands has reported its first cases of the coronavirus after two people who flew from Hawaii to a U.S. military base tested positive.

The small Pacific nation had been among the last places in the world to have no reported cases of the virus.

The Office of the Chief Secretary said in a statement that a 35-year-old woman and a 46-year-old man had tested positive this week after flying directly from Honolulu to the base on Kwajalein Atoll.

The office said the two cases weren’t connected, that both people remained in quarantine, and that there was no chance of community transmission.


The office asked people to remain calm and said all businesses and government operations would continue as normal.

Home to about 78,000 people, the Marshall Islands maintains close military and civilian ties with the U.S. under a compact of free association.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— India’s confirmed coronavirus toll crossed 8 million with daily cases dipping to the lowest level this week. The Health Ministry reported another 49,881 infections in the past 24 hours. The ministry on Thursday also reported 517 additional deaths, taking total fatalities to 120,527. Life in India is edging back to pre-virus levels with shops, businesses, subway trains and movie theaters reopening. But health experts warn a major Hindu festival season and winter setting in could lead to more localized outbreaks..

— Officials in the northwestern Chinese region of Xinjiang believe they have contained the country’s latest coronavirus outbreak. All 23 newly active cases there were people who previously had tested positive but had not yet developed symptoms, according to the National Health Commission. Thursday was the second concurrent day with testing not showing a spread of the virus. Such a development appears to show that new infections have been curbed, Wang Xijiang, deputy director of the center for disease prevention and control in Xinjiang’s Kashgar prefecture. More than 4.7 million people in Kashgar have been tested.

— Australia has sought to prevent new coronavirus cases from reaching its shores by banning most of its residents from leaving in the first place. The ban creates a heartbreaking burden on its multicultural population, around half of whom were born overseas or has an immigrant parent. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has held up Australia’s travel ban as an example to the world of how to avoid severe subsequent coronavirus waves spread by citizens who are infected while traveling on vacation. But with Australia becoming one of the most successful countries in containing the spread of the virus, some are questioning how long the ban can be justified.

Source Article

Officials Warn of Cyberattacks on Hospitals as Virus Cases Spike

Hundreds of American hospitals are being targeted in cyberattacks by the same Russian hackers who American officials and researchers fear could sow mayhem around next week’s election.

The attacks on American hospitals, clinics and medical complexes are intended to take those facilities offline and hold their data hostage in exchange for multimillion-dollar ransom payments, just as coronavirus cases spike across the United States.

“We expect panic,” one hacker involved in the attacks said in Russian during a private exchange on Monday that was captured by Hold Security, a security company that tracks online criminals.

Some hospitals in New York State and on the West Coast reported cyberattacks in recent days, though it was not clear whether they were part of the attacks, and hospital officials emphasized that critical patient care was not affected.

The Russian hackers, believed to be based in Moscow and St. Petersburg, have been trading a list of more than 400 hospitals they plan to target, according to Alex Holden, the founder of Hold Security, who shared the information with the F.B.I. Mr. Holden said the hackers claimed to have already infected more than 30 of them.

On Wednesday, three government agencies — the F.B.I., the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency — warned hospital administrators and security researchers about a “credible threat” of cyberattacks to American hospitals, according to a security executive who listened to the briefing.

Officials and researchers did not name the affected hospitals, but Sonoma Valley Hospital in California said it was still trying to restore its computer systems after an intrusion last week. St. Lawrence Health System in New York confirmed that two of its hospitals, Canton-Potsdam and Gouverneur, were hit by ransomware attacks Tuesday morning that caused them to shut down computer systems and divert ambulances. Sky Lakes Medical Center in Oregon was also crippled by a ransomware attack Tuesday that froze electronic medical records and delayed surgeries, a hospital representative said.

Employees at that hospital, in Klamath Falls, Ore., were told, “If it’s a P.C., shut it down,” said Thomas Hottman, the public information officer at Sky Lakes.

It was unclear whether those attacks were related to the hacking campaign underway. But the latest breaches were linked to the same Russian hackers who held Universal Health Services, a giant network of more than 400 hospitals, hostage with ransomware last month in what was then considered the largest medical cyberattack of its kind.

The hackers are also the same group behind TrickBot, a vast conduit for ransomware attacks that government hackers and technology executives have targeted in two takedowns over the past month.

In late September, United States Cyber Command started hacking into TrickBot’s infrastructure in an effort to disable it before the election. Microsoft also started taking down TrickBot servers via federal court orders over the past month. The goal of both efforts, officials and executives said, was to pre-empt ransomware attacks on the election that could disrupt voting

Iowa doctors say virus spread risks overwhelming hospitals

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa’s number of coronavirus cases, deaths and hospitalizations continued to surge higher Wednesday as medical professionals have begun to express concern that hospitals could be overwhelmed with patients if no action is taken to slow the virus spread.

Iowa hospitals had 596 coronavirus patients Wednesday, by far the highest number so far in Iowa. The 113 patients admitted in the past 24 hours also was the highest seen since the virus surfaced in Iowa in March. The number of patients needing intensive care unit services has also trended upward in the past month.

Iowa doctors and hospital officials are preparing for a system overrun by COVID patients by talking about how to transfer patients between hospitals and enacting surge plans that could turn non-hospital facilities into spots to handle any overflow.

“What we know is if the last four weeks are indicative of what happens over the next four weeks we will have the system overwhelmed,” said Suresh Gunasekaran, CEO of University Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City. “If hospitalizations continue to increase at the exact same rate they have been for weeks, the math itself tells you that you run out of beds.”

University hospitals, the state’s only academic medical center, is often where other hospitals send patients with complex intensive care needs. It is seeing a significant volume of COVID-19 patients from around the state, Gunasekaran said.


He said Iowans need to understand that the coronavirus patient surge often displaces the ability to care for patients with other complex needs stemming from problems such as heart disease, cancer or neurological conditions.

State public health officials reported 1,814 new confirmed cases Wednesday and an additional 22 deaths for a total of 1,680.

Over the past two weeks, the rolling average number of daily new cases has increased by 249, an increase of nearly 23%, according to researchers from Johns Hopkins University. Iowa has averaged about 1,400 new cases a day for the past week.

“My take away from this is that things are bad but also they can and will likely get much worse because the number of new cases is just staggering,” said Dr. Rosanna Rosa, an infectious disease doctor with UnityPoint Health.

A spokesman for the Iowa Department of Public Health said the state is in regular, often daily, contact with health systems, hospitals and regional medical coordination centers to assess hospital capacity, staffing and resources.

“At this time, hospitals are reporting that they are able to manage the increased number of patients, and are prepared to implement surge plans to expand capacity if necessary,” spokesman Alex Carfrae wrote in an email.

He said staffing shortages can occur during times of seasonal illness or viral outbreaks and hospitals have a variety of solutions to maintain adequate staffing levels.

Rosa said a better public health approach would be to make it clear to Iowans that these illnesses and deaths are preventable, a point made in a recent report from the White House Coronavirus

Europe and US facing new round of shutdowns amid virus surge

The resurgence and the resulting clampdown sent a shudder through Wall Street. The S&P 500 fell 3.5%, its biggest drop since June, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 943 points, or 3.4%.

French President Emmanuel Macron declared a new nationwide lockdown starting Friday, saying the country has been “overpowered by a second wave.” Many doctors had urged the move, given that 58% of the nation’s intensive care units are now taken up by COVID-19 patients.

Countries such as Switzerland, Italy, Bulgaria and Greece have closed or otherwise clamped down again on nightspots and imposed other restrictions such as curfews and mandatory mask-wearing. Madrid and other parts of Spain banned all but essential travel in and out of their regions.

“We are deep in the second wave,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said. “I think that this year’s Christmas will be a different Christmas.”

In the U.S., where practically every state is seeing a rise in cases, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers of hard-hit Wisconsin has been reduced to pleading with people to stay home, after an order he issued in the spring was overturned by the courts. Illinois’ governor banned indoor dining and drinking in Chicago this week. Other states are likewise considering reimposing restrictions.

The virus has killed more than 250,000 people in Europe and over 227,000 in the U.S., according to the count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

The long-feared surge is blamed in part on growing disregard for social distancing and mask-wearing, as well as the onset of cold weather, which is forcing people indoors, where the virus can spread more easily.

Dr. David Letzer, an infectious-disease specialist who doubles as chairman of the Wisconsin Medical Society’s COVID-19 task force, is getting swamped with patients. He said he was incensed to see people without masks going into a restaurant as he was driving between hospitals.

“I’m just coming from a place with ventilators and people are just going to an indoor restaurant,” he said. “Those are the things that are frustrating and take their toll.”

In the U.S., more than 71,000 people a day are testing positive on average, up from 51,000 two weeks ago. Cases are on the rise in all but two states, Hawaii and Delaware, and deaths are climbing in 39 states, with an average of 805 people dying in the U.S. per day, up from 714 two weeks ago.

Wisconsin, one of the worst hot spots of them all, set records Tuesday for the number of daily infections at nearly 5,300 and deaths with 64. About 12% of the state’s intensive care beds were

South Dakota sees record virus hospitalizations, cases

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Hospitalizations from COVID-19 in South Dakota reached new heights for the fourth straight day on Wednesday.

The number of daily new cases also set a record, with 1,270 people testing positive for the virus. The virus has surged in the state and region, sending South Dakota to the nation’s second-worst ranking in new cases per capita over the last two weeks. Johns Hopkins researchers report that one out of roughly every 77 people in the state has tested positive in the last two weeks.

The wave of cases has resulted in 412 people who are currently hospitalized with the virus. Health officials also reported nine new deaths. October has become the state’s deadliest month of the pandemic, with 189 deaths so far.


The outbreak has been particularly severe in the state’s prisons, where one out of roughly every three people incarcerated statewide has an active coronavirus infection.

Gov. Kristi Noem has made it clear she will not issue any requirements to wear masks in public. She has cast her approach to the pandemic — foregoing government restrictions to keep economic activity humming — as an example of Republican leadership. She spent the day at several Trump campaign events in Maine and New Hampshire.

Meanwhile, South Dakota health officials attempted to offer some hope to the state’s virus outlook, saying they will be ready by the middle of next month to distribute coronavirus vaccinations. But it is not clear when coronavirus vaccinations will receive regulatory approval and actually arrive in the state.

Health experts are hoping that several candidates for vaccines could be ready for distribution by year’s end, maybe sooner. President Donald Trump has pushed for a faster timeline.

South Dakota Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon said she is following federal instructions to have a vaccine distribution system in place by Nov. 15.

“If the vaccine shows up at our doorstep on that day, it will be getting out to folks immediately,” she said.

South Dakota’s plan prioritizes health care workers and people who are vulnerable to the virus before vaccines are made widely available to the public.

The Food and Drug Administration has pledged that any vaccine it approves will meet clear standards for its safety and effectiveness.

Source Article

France imposes new national lockdown as virus deaths mount

PARIS (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron ordered his country into a new month-long, nationwide lockdown Wednesday aimed at stopping a fast-rising tide of virus patients filling French hospitals, but said schools and some workplaces will stay open.

With over 520 deaths recorded Tuesday, the French leader said the measure that will come into effect Friday would be the only possible way to successfully fight COVID-19.

“We are submerged by the sudden acceleration of the virus,” he said in a national televised address. France has been “overpowered by a second wave.”


All France’s restaurants, bars and non-essential businesses were ordered shut down starting Friday, and Macron said people should return to full-time remote work wherever possible, but said factories, farms and construction sites could continue working. He said unlike in the spring, this time nursing homes will remain open to visitors when possible, and cemeteries will be open so that people can hold in-person funerals.

The French government is scheduled to lay out the full details of the new lockdown on Thursday.

Macron said that France needs to put on the “hard brakes” on the circulation of the virus to protect the country’s most vulnerable. A stay-at-home order, similar to the March lockdown had been the preferred solution by French scientists. But it had been a guessing game in France if the president would cede to those voices, or choose a more moderate path.

“Nothing is more important than human life,” Macron said, noting that France has one of the highest coronavirus rates in Europe currently.

French markets fell Wednesday on expectations of some kind of lockdown, and economists warn that a full lockdown could impact Europe more broadly if other European countries hit hard by rising infections follow France’s lead.

Many French doctors urged strict confinement, noting that 58% of the country’s intensive care units are now occupied by COVID patients and medical staff are under increasing strain.

Dr. Karim Debbat, head of intensive care at the Joseph Imbert Hospital in the southern city of Arles told The Associated Press on Wednesday that his service has no more space because of a rise in COVID patients.

While he said his staff now have more knowledge of the virus than during the spring, half of the hospital’s non-urgent surgeries have been canceled and there’s not enough personnel to deal with a real crisis.

“I’m like a coach with no substitutes,” he said. “We’re walking a tightrope, and unfortunately I don’t think we’ll be getting outside help since all of the regions are affected and each hospital is going to hold (onto) its staff because we’re all affected.”

France’s confirmed virus-related death toll so far is 35,785, the world’s seventh-highest. France has for weeks been reporting tens of thousands of new infections per day and is now recording more than 380 new cases each week per 100,000 people.

France saw a rise in infections over the summer but virus hospitalizations and deaths stayed low, so the government encouraged people to return

India Near 8 Million Cases; Europe Wave Resurgence: Virus Update

(Bloomberg) — India’s confirmed cases reached just under 8 million as virus infections spread across the country. Europe’s resurgent coronavirus outbreak intensified, with Italy’s new cases reaching a record and France reporting the most deaths since April as stricter measures are weighed on the continent.

Japan passes a bill to offer a free vaccine. In a rare admission, U.S. President Donald Trump acknowledged that coronavirus cases are rising in “certain areas” of the Midwest. Covid-19 hospitalizations have risen at least 10% in the past week in 32 states and the nation’s capital as the month-old viral surge increasingly weighs on America’s health-care system.

Pfizer Inc. CEO Albert Bourla said the company may know by the end of October whether its vaccine is effective. Russia has begun production of a second vaccine that hasn’t completed trials.

Key Developments:

Global Tracker: Cases top 43.9 million; deaths exceed 1.16 millionEast Europe fights for its life against virus it thought crushedCity locked down for three months has bleak lesson for the worldCan you get Covid twice? What reinfection cases mean: QuickTakeSlow Covid recovery stalks health industry as new cases surgeEuropean governments running out of options to avoid lockdownsVaccine Tracker: Vaccine trials restart, providing hope

Subscribe to a daily update on the virus from Bloomberg’s Prognosis team here. Click CVID on the terminal for global data on coronavirus cases and deaths.



chart, histogram: Seven-day average of U.S. death toll is at 800 again


© Bloomberg
Seven-day average of U.S. death toll is at 800 again

India Virus Cases Reach Almost 8 Million (12:22 p.m. HK)

India’s total confirmed virus cases reached 7.99 million on Wednesday, according to government data. The nation added 43,893 cases in a day. Coronavirus-related deaths rose to 120,010.

India trails only the U.S. as the nation with the most number of cases. The U.S. has 8.77 million cases, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.

Iran’s Parliament Speaker Tests Positive (11.26 a.m. HK)

Iranian parliament speaker Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf has tested positive for coronavirus and is currently in self-isolation, the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported. Earlier this month, IRNA reported the country’s nuclear energy chief Ali Akbar Salehi as well as Mohammad Bagher Nobakht, a deputy president and top aide to President Hassan Rouhani, had also tested positive for the virus.

Trump Says Midwest ‘Heated Up’ With Cases (10:41 a.m. HK)

President Donald Trump on Tuesday night acknowledged that coronavirus cases are rising in “certain areas” of the Midwest, a rare admission during the final week of the presidential campaign.

“Certain areas that are heated up right now,” Trump said at a rally in Omaha, Nebraska. “They’ll go down. They’ll go down very quickly. They’ll be down within two weeks, they’re figuring.”

Trump has routinely downplayed the virus while making his closing argument to voters, who have rated his pandemic response poorly, according to opinion polls. The president said again on Tuesday that the country is “turning that corner.”

South Korea’s Moon Says Virus Contained, Seeks to Revive Economy (9:34 a.m. HK)

Video: Health panel proposes colon cancer tests start

Britain’s Health Workers Face 2nd Virus Wave, but This Time With Less Support

People have also begun complaining about long wait times.

“There is some disbelief that you’ve had six months to prepare for this and why haven’t you been training more nurses,” said Dr. Tamás Szakmany, an intensive care doctor in Newport, Wales. But, he said, “it’s not just like you’ve got a car factory and you suddenly need more transmissions, so you train the factory workers to build more transmissions. It’s just not that simple.”

Among doctors and nurses, a sense of battle fatigue has set in. Extra weekend shifts that were intended to be temporary have lasted through the summer, especially in northern cities where coronavirus wards remained busy even as a national lockdown was lifted in the summer. Health workers are calling in sick, many of them with anxiety and depression.

Rapid testing remains scarce for doctors and nurses. And health workers on coronavirus wards are supplied only with basic surgical masks, not the heavier-duty N-95 masks reserved for intensive care units.

“The first time around, it’s almost like a once-in-a-lifetime kind of medical challenge,” said Paul Whitaker, a respiratory doctor in Bradford, in northern England, where the number of coronavirus patients has returned to its early May peak.

“The hospital provided packed lunches for us all,” Dr. Whitaker added. “People were sending good luck messages. But the prospect of going into another six months, which is almost certainly what it’s going to be, is relatively frightening. How are you going to maintain the morale, the focus and the energy of all these people?”

In the ex-mining and manufacturing towns in England’s north that have been hit hardest by the latest surge of infections, doctors are especially harried. Nearly 40 percent of critically ill patients are now classified as the country’s most deprived, compared to a quarter of such patients in the spring and early summer.

Source Article

U.N. cancels meetings after reported virus cases

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 103 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infections, continuing a steady spread as people increasingly venture out in the public amid eased social distancing measures.

The figures released by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday brought the national caseload to 26,146, including 461 deaths.

Sixty-six of the new cases were reported in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan region. At least 31 patients have been linked to a golf gathering in Yongin, which emerged as the country’s latest cluster of infections.

Officials have also been testing thousands of workers at hospitals and nursing homes in the capital area following outbreaks that sickened hundreds at a number of these facilities.

___


HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— United Nations cancels in-person meetings after virus cases at New York headquarters

— Russian issues nationwide mask mandate; foreign minister Lavrov in quarantine

— Italy registers nearly 22,000 confirmed daily coronavirus cases

— Mask-less Pope Francis noticed by Vatican virus commission

— Iowa elections officials concerned over surge in coronavirus cases, with possible illnesses or absences among key workers and volunteers a hindrance through Election Day.

— World Series played at a neutral site in front of smallest crowds in a century, but Dodgers and Rays are just happy that some fans are there

___

— Follow AP’s coronavirus pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

___

HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Surging coronavirus infections in Chicago have prompted Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker to ban indoor dining and bar services in the city and limit the number of people gathering in one place.

The rules taking effect Friday will force diners and bar patrons outdoors and shut down service at 11 p.m. No more than 25 people may gather at one time. Occupancy may not exceed 25% capacity.

The governor said that “without action, this could look worse than anything we saw in the spring.”

Chicago joins six other regions in Illinois that are subject to what the Pritzker administration calls “resurgence mitigations.” A day earlier, Pritzker imposed the restrictions on Cook County areas outside Chicago and Lake County to the north.

___

UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations canceled all in-person meetings after a U.N. member nation reported five coronavirus cases among its staff.

General Assembly President Volkan Bozkir sent a letter to the 193 U.N. member nations announcing Tuesday’s cancellation on the advice of the U.N. Medical Unit.

He didn’t identify the country. Diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because there hasn’t been a public announcement, say it was the African nation of Niger. Niger’s U.N. Ambassador Abdou Abarry has a staff of 17, according to the latest U.N. directory.

Assembly spokesman Brenden Varma says contact tracing is expected “to be done quickly and efficiently.”

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric says in recent weeks, between 1,300 and 1,400 people swiped their passes every day to enter the U.N. building in New York.

–Edith Lederer

___

ROME