Coronavirus-Related Hospitalizations Keep Rising – WSJ.com

The number of people hospitalized in the U.S. with Covid-19 climbed to 44,212 Tuesday, the highest number of patients since Aug. 15, according to data from the Covid Tracking Project.

The increasing number of patients poses a challenge for some hospitals struggling with staffing shortages and increased capacity. Rising hospitalizations in places such as Idaho, Utah, Montana and El Paso, Texas, and other indicators of the virus’s spread have prompted officials to implement stricter restrictions in recent days.

More than 1,000 people were hospitalized in New Jersey on Tuesday, the highest number since early July. Officials in Newark this week imposed new restrictions on bars and restaurants, as well as other businesses, as the testing positivity rate there climbs.

Hard-hit Wisconsin set another record Tuesday with 1,385 people with Covid-19 in hospitals, 339 of whom were being treated in intensive-care units, according to the Wisconsin Hospital Association. Officials there opened a field hospital earlier this month to accommodate the growing number of patients.

Hospitalizations are a lagging indicator of the virus’ spread, epidemiologists say.

In Montana, the soaring numbers of Covid-19 cases have pushed the state’s largest hospitals to capacity as officials there grapple with uneven enforcement of the state’s mask mandate, said Jim Murphy, administrator of the state’s Communicable Disease and Laboratory Services Division.

“We have a limited number of tools to try to control the spread of this,” Mr. Murphy said. “Some were more aggressive than others and we do think that has made an impact.”

The state in mid-July required masks indoors at businesses, government offices and large outdoor activities without social distancing. The state last week went to court to enforce the July directives at five businesses where investigations found repeated violations, said Raph Graybill, chief legal council for the Montana governor.

Counties with younger populations have not seen the same rise in hospitalizations as those with older residents, who are at greater risk from the new virus, Mr. Murphy said. In Yellowstone County, home to Billings, Mont., the median age of Covid-19 cases in early October was nearly a decade older than Gallatin County, home to Montana State University, he said.

The Billings Clinic’s flagship hospital, located in Yellowstone County, is transferring patients to smaller, rural hospitals to create more room as Covid-19 hospitalizations increase.

Across Montana, 350 people were hospitalized with Covid-19 Tuesday, Covid Tracking Project data show. The seven-day average for hospitalizations is up more than 120% since the start of the month.

Hospitals are better positioned now to manage surges than earlier in the pandemic, said health-care workers and executives.

Utah’s latest Covid-19 surge is its largest in the pandemic, but doctors have the advantage of experience gained in prior waves as hospitalizations again climb, said Eddie Stenehjem, an infectious disease doctor with Intermountain Healthcare, the state’s largest hospital system.

Doctors employ new strategies to delay or avoid placing some critically ill patients on ventilators, he said. Some drugs to treat Covid-19 drugs are also now available, which was not the case

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Coronavirus-related medicine stockpiles are running low, Labour claims

Labour is claiming emergency stocks of some vital COVID-related drugs are running out ahead of a second wave of the pandemic.

Emily Thornberry, Labour‘s shadow international trade secretary, says the government’s own figures show many drug stockpiles are at zero.

The shortages include bacterial antibiotics and high-strength painkillers, according to figures published in parliament by the health minister Ed Argar.

Ms Thornberry is now calling on the government to spell out how it will replenish the supplies that are running out, either through imports or by boosting domestic capacity.

“Back in May, I asked trade ministers what they were doing to replace our stockpiles of essential medicines in case we faced another crisis in demand, and they assured me that action was being taken,” she said.

“But on the basis of these new figures, our current stockpiles appear well short of the levels we had this time last year, especially in respect of vital life-saving and pain relief medicines for hospitalised COVID patients.

“On an issue as important as this, the country needs decisive and effective leadership, and rapid action to get these stockpiles back up to last year’s levels.”

The shortages emerged after Ms Thornberry asked a parliamentary question to the Department of Health demanding to know how current drug stockpiles compare with a year ago.

In his reply, Mr Argar said: “The government continues to hold stockpiles of medicines to cope with a range of scenarios, and robust contingency planning continues to ensure that the country is prepared for a possible second peak of COVID-19 infections.

“The department has recently undertaken a tender exercise to source critical COVID-19 supportive medicines and a second tender exercise is currently live.

“This is a new stockpile and we are currently in the process of awarding contracts and taking and arranging for the delivery of supplies of some of these medicines.”

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The emergency stockpiles are known as the Essential Medicines Buffer Stock, which was created to support the NHS in the event of a pandemic or other health emergency by making sure the supply chain is uninterrupted.

During the first wave of coronavirus, earlier this year, medicine stockpiles were high, as ministers had built them up ahead of a possible no-deal Brexit at the end of last year.

But at the height of the lockdown in April, the government was forced to import 2.8 million packs of paracetamol from India after shoppers cleared supermarket and pharmacy shelves.

Ms Thornberry claims Mr Argar’s latest figures reveal Britain currently has no stockpiles of high-strength painkillers such as injectable morphine or the bacterial antibiotic doxycycline, used to treat pneumonia and COVID patients on ventilators.

Mr Argar’s figures show good supplies of adrenaline solution, magnesium sulphate, morphine sulphate, suxamethonium chloride solution and tinzaparin sodium solution.

But meropenem powder, an antibiotic used to treat bacterial side-infections, is down from 508,540 injections last year to 112,270 now.

And the following stockpiles

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Coronavirus-related hospitalizations increasing in 37 states

Coronavirus-related hospitalizations are on the rise in a majority of states, a CNBC analysis published Tuesday found.

Hospitalizations were rising by at least 5 percent in 37 states as of Sunday, the network found. It also found several states reached a record high for hospitalization averages, including Alaska, Iowa, Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, Wisconsin and West Virginia.

By comparison, hospitalizations are only falling in the District of Columbia and Hawaii.

“We are clearly in the second wave in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere and we really need to have more control of this infection at the community level,” Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist and professor at the University of Toronto, told CNBC. “We know exactly what it’s like when health-care systems are spread beyond capacity. We saw that in New York City. We saw that in Houston. We saw that in many other parts of the United States.”

Bogoch added that the numbers have worrisome implications for later in the fall as well as in winter, periods during which people are more likely to be inside and at higher risk of transmission for the virus.

“What’s concerning here is that it’s only mid-October and there is a long fall and winter,” he told the network.

Statistics indicate a new wave of the virus is underway in both the U.S. and Europe after growth slowed over the summer. The seven-day average for new cases in the U.S. is up 13 percent from the previous week, at about 56,000 a day. The number is up from early September’s 30,000-per-day average but below the nationwide average of about 70,000 new daily cases seen earlier in the year.

“We’re going to get through it. We’re probably in the 7th inning of the acute phase of this pandemic right now, but the hardest part is probably ahead,” former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told CNBC earlier this week.

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