By Robin Foster and E.J. Mundell
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