D.C. region hits 11-week high in coronavirus infections, but avoids spikes seen elsewhere

New coronavirus infections across the greater Washington region hit an 11-week high Wednesday, mirroring a rise seen across large swaths of the country as the pandemic’s spread worsens ahead of the cold winter months.

The rolling seven-day average of new infections across D.C., Virginia and Maryland stands at 1,949 cases, the most since the average reached 2,001 new cases on Aug. 9. Health experts said adherence to health precautions will limit further spread, but warned that residents might want to reconsider travel during the busy holiday season.

Despite the rise, caseloads in the capital region are far below those in many other states. Virginia is recording 14 new daily cases per 100,000 residents, a number that drops to 12 in Maryland and 10 in D.C. — about half the national average of 22.

By comparison, the state with the lowest rate is Vermont, at three new cases per 100,000 residents, while new daily infections have surged to 104 per 100,000 in North Dakota and South Dakota — more than 10 times the rate as the nation’s capital.

[Places in the U.S. with highest daily reported cases per capita]

Health experts said Wednesday that while the Washington region’s number of infections might rise further, they don’t expect large spikes like those in other parts of the country — assuming residents continue to follow standard guidelines of wearing a mask, maintaining social distancing and not traveling for nonessential reasons.

Costi Sifri, director of hospital epidemiology at UVA Health in Charlottesville, said “virus fatigue” has started to set in, with some people opting out of precautions they took earlier in the pandemic. Cold weather is another factor, prompting residents to spend more time indoors and in closer proximity, creating an ideal environmental for the virus to spread.

“We are starting to see an uptick in the DMV of cases,” Sifri said. “But we’re fortunate that we’re one of a handful of states — Maryland, D.C. and Virginia — that are not seeing surges.”

[Coronavirus cases and metrics in D.C., Maryland and Virginia]

He credited the region’s success with the widespread following of health guidelines, which he said were accompanied by less political tension than in other parts of the country.

Sifri said that as Halloween and Thanksgiving approach, actions taken now will help to determine how the virus is spreading as the December holidays and New Year’s get closer. Combating any virus is generally more difficult during the fall and winter months, he said, and the coronavirus is no exception.

“If we don’t do things well now, it could lead to a very bad holiday season,” he said.

In Virginia, Sifri said rural parts of the state continue to see a rise in infections, a shift from more densely populated areas hit early in the pandemic.

Virginia Department of Health data shows Northern Virginia saw its average number of new daily cases rise Wednesday to 271 — the highest in that region since mid-June. But much of the state’s rise is coming

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COVID Spikes Worsen Health Worker Shortages in Great Plains, Rocky Mountains | Healthiest Communities

COVID-19 cases are surging in rural places across the Mountain States and Midwest, and when it hits health care workers, ready reinforcements aren’t easy to find.

In Montana, pandemic-induced staffing shortages have shuttered a clinic in the state’s capital, led a northwestern regional hospital to ask employees exposed to COVID-19 to continue to work and emptied a health department 400 miles to the east.

“Just one more person out and we wouldn’t be able to keep the surgeries going,” said Dr. Shelly Harkins, chief medical officer of St. Peter’s Health in Helena, a city of roughly 32,000 where cases continue to spread. “When the virus is just all around you, it’s almost impossible to not be deemed a contact at some point. One case can take out a whole team of people in a blink of an eye.”

In North Dakota, where cases per resident are growing faster than any other state, hospitals may once again curtail elective surgeries and possibly seek government aid to hire more nurses if the situation gets worse, North Dakota Hospital Association President Tim Blasl said.

“How long can we run at this rate with the workforce that we have?” Blasl said. “You can have all the licensed beds you want, but if you don’t have anybody to staff those beds, it doesn’t do you any good.”

Photos: Daily Life, Disrupted

TOPSHOT - A passenger in an outfit (R) poses for a picture as a security guard wearing a facemask as a preventive measure against the Covid-19 coronavirus stands nearby on a last century-style boat, featuring a theatrical drama set between the 1920s and 1930s in Wuhan, in Chinas central Hubei province on September 27, 2020. (Photo by Hector RETAMAL / AFP) (Photo by HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP via Getty Images)

The northern Rocky Mountains, Great Plains and Upper Midwest are seeing the highest surge of COVID-19 cases in the nation, as some residents have ignored recommendations for curtailing the virus, such as wearing masks and avoiding large gatherings. Montana, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa and Wisconsin have recently ranked among the top 10 U.S. states in confirmed cases per 100,000 residents over a seven-day period, according to an analysis by The New York Times.

Such coronavirus infections — and the quarantines that occur because of them — are exacerbating the health care worker shortage that existed in these states well before the pandemic. Unlike in the nation’s metropolitan hubs, these outbreaks are scattered across hundreds of miles. And even in these states’ biggest cities, the ranks of medical professionals are in short supply. Specialists and registered nurses are sometimes harder to track down than ventilators, N95 masks or hospital beds. Without enough care providers, patients may not be able to get the medical attention they need.

Hospitals have asked staffers to cover extra shifts and learn new skills. They have brought in temporary workers from other parts of the country and transferred some patients to less-crowded hospitals. But, at St. Peter’s Health, if the hospital’s one kidney doctor gets sick or is told to quarantine, Harkins doesn’t expect to find a backup.

“We make a point to not have excessive staff because we have an obligation to keep the cost of health care down for a community — we just don’t have a lot of slack in our rope,” Harkins said. “What we don’t account for is a mass exodus

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Kansas sees record 7-day spikes in COVID-19 cases, deaths

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas set new records Friday for its largest seven-day increases in new coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths with what its top public health official called “a generalized spread” of the COVID-19 virus.

The state has averaged more than 700 new cases a day this month, and the figure was a record 768 for the seven days ending Friday, beating the previous high mark of 757 for the seven days ending Wednesday. The state Department of Health and Environment reported 1,774 new confirmed and probable coronavirus cases since Wednesday, an increase of 2.4% that brought the total for the pandemic to 76,230.

Dr. Lee Norman, the state health department’s head, said the generalized spread of the virus in Kansas has resulted from resistance to wearing masks in public, continuing to have mass gatherings, crowded school athletic events, and bringing students back to college and university campuses.

“This is absolutely what we’ve been predicting,” Norman said in a text to The Associated Press. “It is the natural consequence of not following the anti-contagion measures in our communities.”

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly said this week that she wants to work with leaders of the Republican-controlled Legislature on imposing a bipartisan, statewide mandate for people to wear masks in public. She issued such an order July 2, but state law allowed counties to opt out, and most did.


Top Republican lawmakers have argued against a “one-size-fits-all” mandate on diverse communities. But rural counties are seeing the largest numbers of new cases per 1,000 residents, and of the 20 counties with the biggest per capita spikes over the past two weeks, only two, Nemaha and Reno counties, have more than 10,000 residents.

Some Kansas elected officials have argued that a decline in the COVID-19 death rate since the start of the pandemic represents real progress as production of a widely available vaccine grows nearer. But in Kansas, where deaths represent about 1.3% of the reported cases, that figure has slowly inched up this month.

The state health department reported an additional 23 COVID-19-related deaths since Wednesday, bringing the pandemic total to 975. The state saw a record average of 16.57 new deaths a day during the seven days ending Friday, though some of that high mark can be attributed to earlier deaths being included when death certificates are reviewed by local and state health officials.

Kansas also reported another 78 coronavirus hospitalizations to bring the total to 3,584. The state averaged a record 31 new hospitalizations a day in the seven days ending Friday. The previous high mark was 29, also set earlier this month.

Kansas’ latest report comes as Missouri and perhaps a handful of other states are seeing alarming increases in hospitalizations but are unable to post accurate data on COVID-19 dashboards because of a flaw in the federal reporting system.

Meanwhile, the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park has angered some residents and split local elected officials by allocating $350,000 in federal relief funds for buying cameras to

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Reopened Schools in New York City Not Seeing COVID Case Spikes | Health News

By Robin Foster and E.J. Mundell
HealthDay Reporters

(HealthDay)

MONDAY, Oct. 19, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Three weeks after becoming the first big urban area to reopen public schools since the pandemic began, New York City is not seeing a feared surge in cases among students and staff.

Instead, health officials are seeing a surprisingly small number of COVID-19 cases, The New York Times reported.

Of 15,111 staff members and students tested randomly in the first week of its testing regimen, the city has gotten back results for 10,676. There were only 18 positives: 13 staff members and five students, the Times reported. Even better, when officials put mobile testing units at schools near the Brooklyn and Queens neighborhoods that have had new outbreaks, only four positive cases surfaced in more than 3,300 tests conducted since the last week of September, the newspaper said.

New York City is facing fears of a second wave of the virus fueled by local spikes in Brooklyn and Queens, and official have closed more than 120 public schools as a precaution, the Times reported.

Still, the sprawling system of 1,800 public schools is a bright spot as the city tries to recover from a pandemic that has killed more than 20,000 people and severely weakened its economy.

When the city reopened its school system in September, roughly half of the city’s students opted for hybrid learning, where they are in the building some days, but not others. The approach has enabled the city to keep class sizes small, the Times reported.

“That data is encouraging,” said Paula White, executive director of Educators for Excellence, a teachers group. “It reinforces what we have heard about schools not being super spreaders.”

Things are not going as well in other parts of the country, however. Last week, at least 20 states set record seven-day averages for infections, and a dozen hit record hospitalization rates, according to health department data analyzed by the Washington Post.

The jump in cases and hospitalizations has been followed by a more modest rise in COVID-19 deaths, most likely due to better patient care from now-seasoned medical workers. The widespread use of powerful steroids and other treatments has also lowered mortality rates among people who are severely ill, the Post reported.

Still, experts caution that most Americans remain vulnerable to COVID infection and the virus will likely spread more easily as colder weather sends more people indoors, where they might be exposed to larger amounts of the virus in poorly ventilated spaces.

“Inevitably, we’re moving into a phase where there’s going to need to be restrictions again,” David Rubin, director of PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, told the Post.

Second COVID vaccine trial paused

A second coronavirus vaccine trial has been paused after an unexplained illness surfaced in one of the trial’s volunteers.

Johnson & Johnson, which only began a phase 3 trial of its vaccine last month, did not offer any more details on the illness and did not

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Will-Kankakee Could See Mitigations Again As Positivity Spikes

WILL COUNTY, IL — As coronavirus numbers in the state continue to move in the wrong direction, the Will-Kankakee region could also once again see new restrictions. As of Saturday, Region 7 is showing a spike in positivity rate and hospitalization, with a decrease in the availability of medical/surgical and ICU beds.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health website, the region has a positivity rate of 7.3 percent, which is a significant increase from Thursday’s 6.6 percent. The region is also seeing 8 consecutive days of positivity increase, putting it in the warning level for this metric.

Region 7 is also at a warning level for the increase in hospitalization and as of Saturday, the numbers have increased for 7 consecutive days. There are currently 25 percent medical and 26 percent surgical beds available. This has decreased as well and will reach warning levels if the numbers fall below 20 percent.

Any region that sustains an 8 percent positivity rate for three days in a row or sees an increase in positivity rates and simultaneous decrease in hospital capacity will need to implement additional community mitigation interventions, the IDPH website states.

Five weeks after being dropped from the IDPH’s list of state counties at the warning level, and four weeks after additional mitigations were dropped for Region 7, Will County again finds itself listed as one of Illinois’ “warning level” counties.

Will County Health Department Executive Director Sue Olenek said in a release the top priority right now is for Will County residents to follow all COVID-19 precautions, with the immediate goal being no return of additional restrictions.

Counties appear on the IDPH Warning Level list when they have hit two of a variety of factors showing signs of increased Coronavirus activity. One is a rate of new COVID-19 cases that is over 50 per 100,000 residents. For Will County, the week of Oct. 4-10 showed 133 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents (the previous week’s level was 87). The second factor Will County hit was a substantial increase in the amount of COVID-19 deaths, a release from the health department states.

Will County had 13 deaths for the week of Oct. 4-10, after a very slow period of COVID-19 deaths in late September.

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This article originally appeared on the Plainfield Patch

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