On the front lines of Europe’s surging 2nd COVID crisis: Reporter’s Notebook

I’ve just left the intensive care unit of a hospital in Liege, Belgium. It’s impossible to know of course, but this is quite possibly the epicenter of Europe’s new coronavirus crisis.



a person standing in front of a refrigerator: A health worker standing in an intensive care unit treats a patient suffering from the coronavirus disease, at Montlegia CHC clinic in Liege, Belgium, Oct. 29, 2020.


© Yves Herman/Reuters
A health worker standing in an intensive care unit treats a patient suffering from the coronavirus disease, at Montlegia CHC clinic in Liege, Belgium, Oct. 29, 2020.

The city of about 200,000 residents nestled in eastern Belgium is at around a 41% infection rate, and the hospital is at full capacity. Intensive care unit numbers have tripled in three weeks. Belgium, which had 100 to 200 cases per day throughout June and early July, is now marking north of 10,000. On Oct. 25, it set a daily record with 17,709.

We stood outside one room — which patients are now forced to share due to overcrowding — to hear the groans of an elderly man who was just admitted. As doctors and nurses attended to him another ambulance swept up outside the window with another case.

MORE: Europe struggling with 2nd surge of COVID-19 case, and it may be worse than the 1st

The doctor guiding us on a tour admitted a chilling fact: health workers here (including himself) are now treating patients knowing they themselves have COVID-19.



a group of people standing in a room: Health workers take care of patients suffering from the coronavirus disease in a recovery room of an operating theatre transformed for COVID-19 patients, at Montlegia CHC clinic in Liege, Belgium, Oct. 29, 2020.


© Yves Herman/Reuters
Health workers take care of patients suffering from the coronavirus disease in a recovery room of an operating theatre transformed for COVID-19 patients, at Montlegia CHC clinic in Liege, Belgium, Oct. 29, 2020.



a person taking a selfie in a room: A health worker looks on in a recovery room of an operating theatre transformed for patients suffering the coronavirus disease, at Montlegia CHC clinic in Liege, Belgium, Oct. 29, 2020.


© Yves Herman/Reuters
A health worker looks on in a recovery room of an operating theatre transformed for patients suffering the coronavirus disease, at Montlegia CHC clinic in Liege, Belgium, Oct. 29, 2020.

Gallery: These States Just Broke Grim COVID Records (ETNT Health)

It’s an ethical dilemma, but not a choice this doctor could make. He now tests negative, but he said if he and others like him do not continue working, the health system here would go under. The toll on health workers, already exhausted from the first wave, about to be exacerbated by the second.

Why is it so bad? COVID fatigue, he says. Belgium relaxed the measures that had kept the country safe and now are going to pay a price. Lots of testing, yes. But not so much tracing.

MORE: Further restrictions, curfews imposed in Europe as continent fights ‘second wave’ of coronavirus cases

But they have learned some important lessons from the first wave.



A health worker picks up utensils in a recovery room of an operating theatre transformed for patients suffering the coronavirus disease, at Montlegia CHC clinic in Liege, Belgium, Oct. 29, 2020.


© Yves Herman/Reuters
A health worker picks up utensils in a recovery room of an operating theatre transformed for patients suffering the coronavirus disease, at Montlegia CHC clinic in Liege, Belgium, Oct. 29, 2020.



a close up of a woman: A woman takes part in a demonstration at the hospital MontLegia, in Liege, gathering employees, and called by the Belgian trade union National Center of Employees, on Oct. 29, 2020 as the country faces a second wave of infections from COVID-19.


© John Thys/AFP via Getty Images
A woman takes part in a demonstration at the hospital MontLegia, in Liege, gathering employees, and called by the Belgian trade union National Center of Employees, on Oct. 29, 2020 as the country faces a second wave of infections from COVID-19.

We came across Florent, a 75-year-old man in the ICU who said

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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

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Surging coronavirus colors White House race in closing days

WAUKESHA, Wis. (AP) — President Donald Trump assured supporters packed shoulder to shoulder at weekend rallies that “we’re rounding the turn” on the coronavirus and mocked challenger Joe Biden for raising alarms about the pandemic, despite surging cases around the country and more positive infections at the White House.

Trump’s remarks came Saturday, hours before the White House announced that a top aide to Vice President Mike Pence had tested positive for the virus. Pence has been in close contact with the adviser, the White House said, but still planned to keep traveling and holding rallies around the country.

The revelation of another high-ranking administration official testing positive for the virus coupled with the administration’s decision to continue business as usual punctuated a day that marked the starkly different approaches that Trump and Biden are taking to campaigning in the age of the novel coronavirus.

Pence’s office confirmed late Saturday that his chief of staff, Marc Short, had tested positive — the public announcement coming just as Trump was wrapping up a day of big rallies in North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin, three battleground states that will have enormous impact on deciding the Nov. 3 election.

Trump commented on Short early Sunday after his plane landed at Joint Base Andrews, outside Washington. “I did hear about it just now,” he said. “And I think he’s quarantining. Yeah. I did hear about it. He’s going to be fine. But he’s quarantining.”

Pence is considered a “close contact” under Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, but will continue to campaign, his spokesman said. “In consultation with the White House Medical Unit, the Vice President will maintain his schedule in accordance with the CDC guidelines for essential personnel,” Pence spokesman Devin O’Malley said. The guidelines require that essential workers exposed to someone with the coronavirus closely monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 and wear a mask whenever around other people.


O’Malley added that Pence and his wife, Karen Pence, both tested negative for the virus on Saturday “and remain in good health.” Pence, who held campaign events in Florida on Saturday, is set to campaign in North Carolina on Sunday.

The revelation bookended a day in which Biden and Trump demonstrated remarkably different attitudes about what they saw as safe behavior in the homestretch of a campaign that, as with all aspects of American life, has been upended by the pandemic.

“We don’t want to become superspreaders,” Biden told supporters at a “drive-in” rally Saturday in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, picking up a term that has been used to describe the Rose Garden event in late September in which Trump announced his latest Supreme Court nominee. More than two dozen people linked to the White House have contracted COVID-19 since that gathering, as have campaign aides. Trump spent more than three days hospitalized at Walter Reed Military Medical Center after becoming stricken.

Biden pressed his case that Trump was showing dangerous indifference to the surging virus on a day he looked to boost his

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Leaders in US, Europe divided on response to surging virus

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Virus cases are surging across Europe and many U.S. states, but responses by leaders are miles apart, with officials in Ireland, France and elsewhere imposing curfews and restricting gatherings even as some U.S. governors resist mask mandates or more aggressive measures.

The stark contrasts in efforts to contain infections come as outbreaks on both sides of the Atlantic raise similar alarms, including shrinking availability of hospital beds and rising deaths.

Governors of states including Tennessee, Oklahoma, Nebraska and North Dakota are all facing calls from doctors and public health officials to require masks.


In Utah, a spike in cases since school reopened has created a dynamic that Republican Gov. Gary Herbert has called “unsustainable.”

But schools remain open and Herbert, who has been pressured by an outspoken contingent of residents opposed to masks, has resisted a statewide mandate. Instead, he announced last week that they would be required only in six counties with the highest infection rates, while leaving it to others to make their own rules. Meanwhile, many hospitals are being pushed to the breaking point.

“We are not just managing COVID. We are also managing heart attacks and strokes and respiratory failure and all those other things that need ICU-level care,” said Dr. Kencee Graves, chief medical officer for inpatient care at the University of Utah Health hospital in Salt Lake City. The hospital’s intensive care unit was filled by the end of last week, forcing the reopening of a backup intensive care unit.

“The sooner we take care of each other, wear masks, physically distance, the sooner we can have some gatherings in a safe way,” Graves said.

In Oklahoma, where the number of people hospitalized for the virus has reached record levels, doctors have called on officials to do more.

“We need face mask mandates to protect more of our Oklahoma citizens,” Dr. George Monks, the president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association, said in a tweet Sunday.

But Gov. Kevin Stitt has said repeatedly he has no plans to do so, citing concerns about how such a mandate would be enforced.

Oklahoma health officials reported a record high of 821 people hospitalized Tuesday with the virus or under investigation for the infection. Wyoming also reported a record high number of patients hospitalized for the virus.

New virus cases in the U.S. have surged in recent weeks from a daily average of about 42,000 in early October to about 58,000 — the highest level since late July, according to Johns Hopkins University.

In one of the most troubling outbreaks, 10 residents of a nursing home in northwest Kansas have died from the virus, health officials said. All 62 residents of the Andbe Home in Norton County, as well as an unspecified number of employees, have tested positive for the infection.

The surge in new cases prompted a change of heart Monday from the mayor of North Dakota’s largest city, in favor of a mask mandate.

Tim Mahoney, who in addition to

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Doctors Rail Against Trump’s Michigan, Wisconsin Rallies Amid Surging COVID Cases

Doctors in Michigan and Wisconsin are encouraging President Donald Trump to cancel campaign rallies planned for Saturday afternoon, as coronavirus cases are rising in both states.



a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Attendees wait to hear President Donald Trump speak at a campaign rally on October 16, 2020 in Macon, Georgia. President Trump continues to campaign against Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden with 18 days until election day.


© Elijah Nouvelage/Getty
Attendees wait to hear President Donald Trump speak at a campaign rally on October 16, 2020 in Macon, Georgia. President Trump continues to campaign against Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden with 18 days until election day.

Michigan doctors Rob Davidson and Susan Fabrick held a virtual press conference on Friday afternoon, the day before Trump is expected to arrive at FlyBy Air near the airport in Muskegon County, located just northwest of Grand Rapids, the Detroit Free Press reported. The president is failing to listen to health officials’ advice, the doctors said.

“As physicians, we are really concerned about the inaccurate misinformation that President Trump repeats day after day, multiple times a day,” said Fabrick, a family medicine doctor who has practiced in Muskegon for 26 years. “No matter what he claims, COVID-19 is still with us and it is still killing people.”

On October 15, Michigan reported a record number of coronavirus cases statewide since the crisis began earlier this year, with 2,517 new cases, according to the New York Times’ database.

In Muskegon County, which has a population of just under 175,000, more than 1,700 people have tested positive for coronavirus, with case numbers continuing to steadily increase, according to the county’s public health department.

“Instead of coming to Muskegon to continue spreading misinformation and packing people close together with COVID-19 cases going up, President Trump should cancel his campaign event and focus on fighting the pandemic with science and evidence,” said Davidson, executive director of the Committee to Protect Medicare, which hosted the press conference. “As a physician, I’m concerned that his campaign events endanger public health. They have also become platforms for spreading medically inaccurate information that puts people’s lives at risk.”

‘Get Out There’: Trump Removes Face Mask For Photo Op As He Returns To White House

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Trump’s campaign rallies typically attract thousands, even amid a global pandemic. While most of his events this year have been held in large outdoor venues, photographs show many of Trump’s supporters without face coverings and with little regard to social distancing—two measures strongly encouraged by health officials.

His campaign doesn’t require that face coverings be worn at rallies, but it does provide masks and encourages their use, Politico reported. Temperature checks and hand sanitizer are also provided.

“We take strong precautions for campaign events,” Tim Murtaugh, communications director, said in a statement to Politico.

The president will head to the neighboring state of Wisconsin later Saturday, where he plans to host a rally in Janesville, located about 75 miles west of Milwaukee. City leaders held a virtual press conference Saturday morning, criticizing Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and his decision to hold a large event where cases are also surging, local station WMTV reported.

“These are super spreader events and health care

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