Hospitals Straining Under Weight of Surging COVID Case Counts | Health News

By Robin Foster and E.J. Mundell
HealthDay Reporters

(HealthDay)

MONDAY, Oct. 26, 2020 (HealthDay News) — As the United States witnessed record-breaking daily coronavirus case counts over the weekend, public health experts warned that hospitals may soon reach a breaking point.

More than 41,000 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized across the country, a 40 percent rise in the past month, The New York Times reported.

But in sharp contrast to the early days of the pandemic, more of these patients are being cared for in sparsely populated parts of the country, where the medical infrastructure isn’t as strong as it is in metropolitan areas, the Times reported.

In Utah last week, hospital administrators warned Gov. Gary Herbert that they would soon have to ration access to intensive care units, and requested state approval for criteria to decide which patients should get priority, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.

“We told him, ‘It looks like we’re going to have to request those be activated if this trend continues,’ and we see no reason why it won’t,” Greg Bell, president of the Utah Hospital Association, told the Tribune, the Times reported.

In Kansas City, medical centers turned away ambulances this month because they had no room for more patients. In Idaho, a hospital that was 99 percent full has warned it might have to send coronavirus patients to hospitals as far away as Seattle and Portland, Ore., the Times reported.

Hospitals in hard-hit parts of the country are resorting to a tactic commonly used during the pandemic as it depletes medical resources: limiting other medical services, the newspaper said.

In Tennessee, the Maury Regional Medical Center on Saturday suspended all elective procedures requiring an overnight stay to make room for COVID-19 patients. In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott has asked the federal government to authorize the use of a military hospital at Fort Bliss, outside El Paso, to treat civilian non-coronavirus patients, the Times reported. In places like Milwaukee and Salt Lake City, field hospitals are already being opened.

Things will likely get worse: The latest surge of coronavirus infections has brought the seven-day average of new daily cases to heights not seen since the pandemic began, CNN reported.

The seven-day average of new cases hit 68,767 on Sunday, topping the previous peak of 67,293 reported on July 22. Friday and Saturday were record-breaking days, with more than 83,000 new cases added each day, CNN reported.

Remdesivir gets full FDA approval to treat COVID-19

Last week, the antiviral drug remdesivir got full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The approval comes after the agency granted it emergency use authorization last spring. It is given intravenously to hospitalized patients.

California-based Gilead Sciences Inc. is selling the drug under the brand name Veklury. It cut the time to recovery from COVID-19 by five days — from 15 days to 10, on average — in a large study led by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the FDA announced in a statement.

“Today’s approval is

Read more

Debunking the False Claim That COVID Death Counts Are Inflated

A persistent falsehood has been circulating on social media: the number of COVID deaths is much lower than the official statistic of more than 218,000, and therefore the danger of the disease has been overblown. In August President Trump retweeted a post claiming that only 6 percent of these reported deaths were actually from COVID-19. (The tweet originated from a follower of the debunked conspiracy fantasy QAnon.) Twitter removed the post for containing false information, but fabrications such as these continue to spread. U.S. Representative Roger Marshall of Kansas complained in September that Facebook had removed a post in which he claimed that 94 percent of COVID-19 deaths reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “were the result of 2-3 additional serious illnesses and were of advanced age.”

Now some facts: Researchers know beyond a doubt that the number of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. have surpassed 200,000. These numbers are supported by three lines of evidence, including death certificates. The inaccurate idea that only 6 percent of the deaths were really caused by the coronavirus is “a gross misinterpretation” of how death certificates work, says Robert Anderson, lead mortality statistician at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.

The scope of the coronavirus’s deadly toll is clear, even if final numbers will not be known until the pandemic is over. “We’re pretty confident about the scale and order of magnitude of deaths, but we’re not clear on the exact number yet,” says Justin Lessler, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. To understand why the figures contain some uncertainty, it is important to know how they are collected and calculated.

The first source of death data is called case surveillance. Health care providers are required to report cases and deaths from certain diseases, including measles, mumps and now COVID-19, to their state’s health department, which, in turn, passes this information along to the CDC, Anderson says. The surveillance data are a kind of “quick and dirty” accounting, says Shawna Webster, executive director of the National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems. The states gather all the information they can on these diseases, but this is the first pass of the accounting—no one has time to double-check the information or look for missing lab tests, she says. For that, you have to look for the next source of information: vital records.

US deaths per week broken down by cause of death


Credit: Youyou Zhou; Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics

This second line of evidence comes from the National Vital Statistics System, which records birth and death certificates. When somebody dies, a death certificate is filed in the state where the death occurred. And after the records are registered at a state level, they are sent to the National Center for Health Statistics, which tracks deaths at a national level. Death certificates are not filed in the system until outstanding test results are in and the information is as complete as possible.

Read more

10 states reported their highest single-day case counts last week

Covid-19 cases continue to soar across the country and one top infectious disease expert warned Americans that the next few months will be the “darkest of the pandemic.”



Dignity GoHealth worker Brandon Hastings uses an Abbott ID Now rapid antigen testing machine for United Airlines passengers who took tests at the SFO COVID-19 rapid testing site at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)


© Jeff Chiu/AP
Dignity GoHealth worker Brandon Hastings uses an Abbott ID Now rapid antigen testing machine for United Airlines passengers who took tests at the SFO COVID-19 rapid testing site at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Health experts say the predicted fall surge is here, and rising cases across the US appear to bear that out. The US is averaging more than 55,000 new cases a day, and 10 states reported their highest single-day case counts on Friday. At least 27 states are showing an upward trend in the number of cases reported, according to a CNN analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University.

“The next six to 12 weeks are going to be the darkest of the entire pandemic,” Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told NBC’s”Meet the Press” on Sunday.

Osterholm highlighted the 70,000 cases of Covid-19 reported on Friday, which matched the largest number seen during the peak of the pandemic. Between now and the holidays, the US will see numbers “much, much larger than even the 67 to 75,000 cases,” he said.

LIVE UPDATES: The latest on the coronavirus pandemic

Despite the climbing totals, Dr. Anthony Fauci, nation’s top infectious disease doctor, said a nationwide lockdown is not the way forward unless the pandemic gets “really, really bad.”

“No, put shut down away and say, ‘We’re going to use public health measures to help us safely get to where we want to go,'” he said during an interview on CBS’ “60 Minutes” Sunday night.

Instead of seeing restrictions as a roadblock to an open economy, Fauci said that the fatigued American public should see public health measures as a way to safely keep it open.

Americans can help get the virus under control, experts say, by heeding guidelines touted by officials for months: avoiding crowded settings, practicing social distancing, keeping small gatherings outdoors and wearing a mask.

Osterholm, however, said the lack of a coordinated government response is hampering efforts to stem the pandemic.

“So, what we have right now is a major problem in messaging,” he said. “People don’t know what to believe, and that’s one of our huge challenges going forward, is we’ve got to get the message to the public that reflects the science and reflects reality.”

As of early Monday morning, there were more than 8.1 million cases and 219,674 coronavirus deaths in the US, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Fauci looks to the FDA for vaccine safety

Public health measures will need to remain in place at least until a safe and effective vaccine is available.

When one is made available, Fauci said he will take it after looking at the data — and if it has been approved

Read more