Nearly 50,000 hospitalized with Covid-19 as experts warn of growing health care pressure

The fall surge has left nearly 50,000 people hospitalized across the US due to Covid-19, and experts say the strain health care systems are under could soon get worse.



a person in a blue blanket: HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 31: A medical staff member grabs a hand of a patient to reposition the bed in the COVID-19 intensive care unit (ICU) at the United Memorial Medical Center (UMMC) on October 31, 2020 in Houston, Texas. According to reports, Texas has reached over 916,000 cases, including over 18,000 deaths. (Photo by Go Nakamura/Getty Images)


© Go Nakamura/Getty Images
HOUSTON, TX – OCTOBER 31: A medical staff member grabs a hand of a patient to reposition the bed in the COVID-19 intensive care unit (ICU) at the United Memorial Medical Center (UMMC) on October 31, 2020 in Houston, Texas. According to reports, Texas has reached over 916,000 cases, including over 18,000 deaths. (Photo by Go Nakamura/Getty Images)

Hospitalizations were on the rise in 47 states last month, according to the Covid Tracking Project, and a total of 47,502 people were hospitalized as of Sunday. The rates come alongside a surge of cases that made October a record setting month for coronavirus infections in the US.

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The US recorded its highest number of new cases on Friday with a reported 99,321, the record for any nation in the world. And experts have said that the impacts will likely continue to get worse as colder months drive up infections.

“We’re right at the beginning of what looks like exponential growth in a lot of states,” Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “This is very worrisome as we head into the winter.”

Gottlieb expects Thanksgiving to be an inflection point, and from there he said the hospital system is going to be facing pressure similar to the early spikes — when hospitals around the country were reaching capacity and health care workers were stretched thin.

Dr. Christopher Murray, director of the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, said hospitalizations are the best measure of how the nation is faring against the pandemic and are often an indicator of how the number of deaths will trend.

The seven-day average for new cases currently is more than 81,300 — higher than any other time in the pandemic. The surge has brought cases to more than 9.2 million in the US since the pandemic began, and 230,996 people have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Coronavirus accelerating in states

Covid-19 spread and hospitalizations have reached staggering levels across states.

This week, there were more new coronavirus cases in Kentucky than any other week since the pandemic began, Gov. Andy Beshear said in a statement Sunday.

“I know we’re tired, but if we do not get the spread of this disease under control, we risk a darker, more deadly period this winter than we ever experienced in the spring,” Beshear said.

Illinois is working to manage the virus by putting the entire state under resurgence mitigation measures, Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health said Sunday. The state reported nearly 7,000 new cases on Sunday.

“As cases, hospitalizations and deaths are rising across our state, across the Midwest and across the nation, we have to act responsibly and collectively

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Nearly 50,000 hospitalized with Covid-19 as experts warn of growing healthcare pressure

The fall surge has left nearly 50,000 people hospitalized across the US due to Covid-19, and experts say the strain healthcare systems are under could soon get worse.



a person in a blue blanket: HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 31: A medical staff member grabs a hand of a patient to reposition the bed in the COVID-19 intensive care unit (ICU) at the United Memorial Medical Center (UMMC) on October 31, 2020 in Houston, Texas. According to reports, Texas has reached over 916,000 cases, including over 18,000 deaths. (Photo by Go Nakamura/Getty Images)


© Go Nakamura/Getty Images
HOUSTON, TX – OCTOBER 31: A medical staff member grabs a hand of a patient to reposition the bed in the COVID-19 intensive care unit (ICU) at the United Memorial Medical Center (UMMC) on October 31, 2020 in Houston, Texas. According to reports, Texas has reached over 916,000 cases, including over 18,000 deaths. (Photo by Go Nakamura/Getty Images)

Hospitalizations were on the rise in 47 states last month, according to the Covid Tracking Project, and a total of 47,502 people were hospitalized as of Sunday. The rates come alongside a surge of cases that made October a record setting month for coronavirus infections in the US.

Loading...

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The US recorded its highest number of new cases on Friday with a reported 99,321, the record for any nation in the world. And experts have said that the impacts will likely continue to get worse as colder months drive up infections.

“We’re right at the beginning of what looks like exponential growth in a lot of states,” Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “This is very worrisome as we head into the winter.”

Gottlieb expects Thanksgiving to be an inflection point, and from there he said the hospital system is going to be facing pressure similar to the early spikes — when hospitals around the country were reaching capacity and healthcare workers were stretched thin.

Dr. Christopher Murray, director of the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, said hospitalizations are the best measure of how the nation is faring against the pandemic and are often an indicator of how the number of deaths will trend.

The seven-day average for new cases currently is more than 81,300 — higher than any other time in the pandemic. The surge has brought cases to more than 9.2 million in the US since the pandemic began, and 230,996 people have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Coronavirus accelerating in states

Covid-19 spread and hospitalizations have reached staggering levels across states.

This week, there were more new coronavirus cases in Kentucky than any other week since the pandemic began, Gov. Andy Beshear said in a statement Sunday.

“I know we’re tired, but if we do not get the spread of this disease under control, we risk a darker, more deadly period this winter than we ever experienced in the spring,” Beshear said.

Illinois is working to manage the virus by putting the entire state under resurgence mitigation measures, Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health said Sunday. The state reported nearly 7,000 new cases on Sunday.

“As cases, hospitalizations and deaths are rising across our state, across the Midwest and across the nation, we have to act responsibly and collectively to protect

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More hospitals hit by ransomware as feds warn about cyberattacks

A recent wave of ransomware attacks has infected more hospitals than previously known, including a University of Vermont network with locations in New York and Vermont.

The University of Vermont Health Network is analyzing what appears to be a ransomware attack from the same cybercrime gang that has infected at least three other hospitals in recent weeks, according to two sources familiar with the investigation who weren’t authorized to comment about it before it is complete.

Several federal agencies warned Wednesday of “an increased and imminent cybercrime threat” to the country’s health care providers, particularly from a gang that uses a strand of ransomware called Ryuk. The U.S. has repeatedly hit record highs for daily confirmed coronavirus infections.

The FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, part of the Department of Homeland Security, sent an updated alert Thursday night with new technical information, adding that they have “credible information of an increased and imminent cybercrime threat to U.S. hospitals and healthcare providers.”

As many as 20 medical facilities have been hit by the recent wave of ransomware, said a person with knowledge of the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly. The figure includes multiple facilities within the same hospital chain.

Three other hospital chains have recently confirmed cyberattacks, believed to be ransomware, by the same gang: the Sky Lakes Medical Center, with 21 locations in Oregon; Dickinson County Healthcare System in Michigan and Wisconsin; and the St. Lawrence Health System in northern New York. It was not clear how much of their systems or how many locations had been hit by the ransomware.

Tom Hottman, a spokesperson for Sky Lakes Medical Center, confirmed that the company had been infected with Ryuk and said its computers were inaccessible, halting radiation treatments for cancer patients.

“We’re still able to meet the care needs for most patients using work-around procedures, i.e. paper rather than computerized records. It’s slower but seems to work,” he said in an email.

Joe Rizzo, a spokesperson for Dickinson, said in an email that their hospitals and clinics are using paper copies for some services because computer systems are down.

Rich Azzopardi, senior adviser to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, said the state’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services and other groups had been in communication about the St. Lawrence attack.

Details about a major wave of ransomware attacks on U.S. hospitals began to emerge at the end of September when computer systems for Universal Health Services, one of the biggest hospital chains in the country, were hit, forcing some doctors and nurses to use pen and paper to file patient information. Jane Crawford, the chain’s director of public relations, said in an email at the beginning of October that no one had died because of the attack.

Ransomware attacks often gain access to secure systems and then encrypt files. The people behind the attacks then demand money to decrypt the files.

Ryuk is transmitted through

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FBI, DHS Warn Hospitals of ‘Credible Threat’ from Hackers

Several federal agencies on Wednesday warned hospitals and cyber-researchers about “credible” information “of an increased and imminent cybercrime threat to U.S. hospitals and health-care providers.”

The FBI, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, part of the Department of Homeland Security and known as CISA, said hackers were targeting the sector, “often leading to ransomware attacks, data theft and the disruption of health-care services,” according to an advisory.

The advisory warned that hackers might use Ryuk ransomware “for financial gain.”

The warning comes as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations surge across the country. The cybersecurity company FireEye Inc. said multiple U.S hospitals had been hit by a “coordinated” ransomware attack, with at least three publicly confirming being struck this week.

Ransomware is a type of computer virus that locks up computers until a ransom is paid for a decryption key.

The attack was carried out by a financially motivated cybercrime group dubbed UNC1878 by computer security researchers, according to Charles Carmakal, FireEye’s strategic services chief technology officer. At least three hospitals were severely affected by ransomware on Tuesday, he said, and multiple hospitals have been hit over the past several weeks. UNC1878 intends to target and deploy ransomware to hundreds of other hospitals, Carmakal said.

“We are experiencing the most significant cybersecurity threat we’ve ever seen in the United States,” he said. “UNC1878, an Eastern European financially motivated threat actor, is deliberately targeting and disrupting U.S. hospitals, forcing them to divert patients to other health-care providers.”

Multiple hospitals have already been significantly affected by Ryuk ransomware and their networks have been taken offline, Carmakal added. “UNC1878 is one of most brazen, heartless, and disruptive threat actors I’ve observed over my career.”

Attackers using Trickbot malware, which is also cited in the federal advisory, claimed Monday in private communications channel to have attacked more than 400 hospitals in the U.S., said Alex Holden, the founder of the cyber investigations firm Hold Security. By Tuesday, the Trickbot attack group — which frequently works with ransomware operators Ryuk — claimed to have ransomed about 30 medical facilities around the country, Holden said.

Noncriminals running these malware and ransomware operations are known to embellish their achievements, he said.

St. Lawrence Health System in New York, Sonoma Valley Hospital in California, and Sky Lakes Medical Center in Oregon on Tuesday all publicly stated they were affected by ransomware attacks, according to local news reports.

The ransomware that has targeted hospitals, retirement communities and medical centers this year has typically started with emails that purport to be corporate communications and sometimes contain the name of the victim or their company in the text or its subject line, according to a FireEye report released Wednesday. However, the emails can contain malicious Google Docs, typically in the form of a PDF file, that contains a link to malware. The use of multiple links, as well as PDF files, can help trick email filters designed to spot simpler phishing tactics.

—With assistance

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White House advisers warn COVID-19 spread in Midwest and West is ‘unrelenting’

The White House Coronavirus Task Force has reportedly warned of a “persistent and broad spread” of COVID-19 infections across the U.S. West, advocating stricter prevention efforts to help slow the spread of transmission, per Reuters.

“We are on a very difficult trajectory. We’re going in the wrong direction,” Anthony Fauci, the most prominent task force member, said.


PROPOSAL TO LET CORONAVIRUS SPREAD NATURALLY THROUGH US POPULATION INTERESTS WHITE HOUSE, ALARMS MEDICAL ESTABLISHMENT

EUROPE REENTERS LOCKDOWNS AS COVID-19 CASES SURGE

THE FIRST DEATH FROM A CORONAVIRUS REINFECTION HAS BEEN REPORTED

US SENATOR TOOK OFF MASK REPEATEDLY ON FLIGHT. HE CHAIRS COMMITTEE THAT OVERSEES AIRLINE SAFETY


Data reveal that cases are high and remaining high in states like Wisconsin, Montana, Wyoming, North and South Dakota, Utah, Iowa, Tennessee, Arkansas and Minnesota, among dozens of others. Many of these states are key battleground states that have potential to determine the outcome of the competitive election between incumbent President Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden.

Fauci confirmed that new cases are increasing in 47 states, along with hospitalizations.

Wisconsin, in particular, is on track to run out of intensive care unit beds.

“Every single positive increases the probability or likelihood of having another patient who is hospitalized,” Bill Melms, chief medical officer for Marshfield Clinic Health System, told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

On a national level, the two-week change in new cases is up by 41 percent, with fatalities increasing by nine percent on average. 

Roughly 1,016 new COVID-19 deaths and 81,457 new cases were reported on Oct. 28, per The New York Times.

“We continue to see unrelenting, broad community spread in the Midwest, Upper Midwest and West. This will require aggressive mitigation to control both the silent, asymptomatic spread and symptomatic spread,” one state report said.

A nationwide lockdown has still not been issued, and some states do not have a mandatory mask order, such as Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. Most of these states are experiencing surges in new cases.


KANSAS’S COVID-19 POSITIVITY RATE SURPASSES 20 PERCENT

MOST VOTERS BELIEVE THE CORONAVIRUS IS OUT OF CONTROL IN THE US, POLL SAYS

CDC ‘STRONGLY RECOMMENDS’ ALL PASSENGERS ON PLANES, TRAINS, BUSES WEAR MASKS TO SLOW SPREAD OF COVID-19

THE COMING WEEKS WILL BE ‘DARKEST OF THE ENTIRE PANDEMIC,’ INFECTIOUS DISEASES EXPERT SAYS

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US Authorities Warn Of ‘Imminent’ Cyber Threat To Hospitals

US security authorities warned Wednesday of an “imminent cybercrime threat” to hospitals and healthcare providers, urging them to increase their protection.

An advisory released by the FBI and two other government agencies said they had “credible information” that hackers were targeting the healthcare sector using malware, “often leading to ransomware attacks, data theft, and the disruption of healthcare services.”

The threat comes as US hospitals grapple with rising numbers of coronavirus cases, during a pandemic which has so far killed more than 226,000 people in the country.

Ransomware is a type of malicious software used by cybercriminals to encrypt users’ files until a ransom is paid.

Healthcare institutions have been frequent victims of ransomware for several years in the US and globally.

US federal agencies warned hackers were targeting the healthcare sector using malware that can lead to ransomware attacks US federal agencies warned hackers were targeting the healthcare sector using malware that can lead to ransomware attacks Photo: AFP / NICOLAS ASFOURI

Last month, a suspected ransomware attack disrupted patient care at a large chain of hospitals and clinics operating in the United States and Britain.

In 2017, the UK’s national healthcare system was one of the victims in a wave of global ransomware attacks, prompting some of its hospitals to divert ambulances and scrap operations.

The federal agencies urged US healthcare providers to take “timely and reasonable precautions” to protect their networks.

They encouraged healthcare providers to patch their operating systems, software and firmware as soon as possible, and to conduct antivirus and anti-malware scans regularly.

The agencies also recommended changing passwords regularly and using multi-factor authentication.

Copyright AFP. All rights reserved.

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Officials Warn of Cyberattacks on Hospitals as Virus Cases Spike

Hundreds of American hospitals are being targeted in cyberattacks by the same Russian hackers who American officials and researchers fear could sow mayhem around next week’s election.

The attacks on American hospitals, clinics and medical complexes are intended to take those facilities offline and hold their data hostage in exchange for multimillion-dollar ransom payments, just as coronavirus cases spike across the United States.

“We expect panic,” one hacker involved in the attacks said in Russian during a private exchange on Monday that was captured by Hold Security, a security company that tracks online criminals.

Some hospitals in New York State and on the West Coast reported cyberattacks in recent days, though it was not clear whether they were part of the attacks, and hospital officials emphasized that critical patient care was not affected.

The Russian hackers, believed to be based in Moscow and St. Petersburg, have been trading a list of more than 400 hospitals they plan to target, according to Alex Holden, the founder of Hold Security, who shared the information with the F.B.I. Mr. Holden said the hackers claimed to have already infected more than 30 of them.

On Wednesday, three government agencies — the F.B.I., the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency — warned hospital administrators and security researchers about a “credible threat” of cyberattacks to American hospitals, according to a security executive who listened to the briefing.

Officials and researchers did not name the affected hospitals, but Sonoma Valley Hospital in California said it was still trying to restore its computer systems after an intrusion last week. St. Lawrence Health System in New York confirmed that two of its hospitals, Canton-Potsdam and Gouverneur, were hit by ransomware attacks Tuesday morning that caused them to shut down computer systems and divert ambulances. Sky Lakes Medical Center in Oregon was also crippled by a ransomware attack Tuesday that froze electronic medical records and delayed surgeries, a hospital representative said.

Employees at that hospital, in Klamath Falls, Ore., were told, “If it’s a P.C., shut it down,” said Thomas Hottman, the public information officer at Sky Lakes.

It was unclear whether those attacks were related to the hacking campaign underway. But the latest breaches were linked to the same Russian hackers who held Universal Health Services, a giant network of more than 400 hospitals, hostage with ransomware last month in what was then considered the largest medical cyberattack of its kind.

The hackers are also the same group behind TrickBot, a vast conduit for ransomware attacks that government hackers and technology executives have targeted in two takedowns over the past month.

In late September, United States Cyber Command started hacking into TrickBot’s infrastructure in an effort to disable it before the election. Microsoft also started taking down TrickBot servers via federal court orders over the past month. The goal of both efforts, officials and executives said, was to pre-empt ransomware attacks on the election that could disrupt voting

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U.S. may face ‘substantial third wave’ of coronavirus cases, experts warn

A patient arrives at the Emergency entrance to Maimonides Medical Center, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in the Borough Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, U.S., October 14, 2020.

Brendan McDermid | Reuters

Colder temperatures are arriving in the Northern Hemisphere, and an insidious rise in new coronavirus cases in the U.S. and Europe is underway.

For months, health officials have warned against this possibility, and as these trends begin to materialize, countries are weighing whether to impose stricter measures to contain the virus’ spread.

“Our worry has been that we would see a fall wave, that we’d see a big resurgence in the fall,” said Justin Lessler, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “And that has really been something I think all of us in the public health community have been worried about for a while.”

In the U.S., coronavirus cases were growing by 5% or more in 38 states, as of Friday, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University that uses a weekly average to smooth out the reporting. The nation is averaging roughly 55,000 new coronavirus cases every day, a more than 16% increase compared with a week ago.

“It’s still not too late to vigorously apply good public health measures, and again I emphasize without necessarily shutting down the country,” White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci told Johns Hopkins University during a recorded Q&A on Thursday.

Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, has warned the daily number of new coronavirus cases in the U.S. remains dangerously high, especially as the forthcoming flu season threatens to complicate the nation’s response to the pandemic.

When the U.S. descended from its first peak in April, where cases were largely driven by New York and other states in the Northeast, the number of new coronavirus cases “got stuck” around 20,000 per day, Fauci said. Ideally, the U.S. would’ve reported less than 10,000 cases every day, he said.

Then cases resurged in America’s Sun Belt over the summer as states tried to reopen their economies. The number of daily new Covid-19 cases swelled to a high of nearly 70,000 cases a day before subsiding once again. However, new cases have since hovered between 40,000 to 50,000 cases a day.

“You can’t enter into the cool months of the fall and the cold months of the winter with a high community infection baseline,” Fauci said. He added that the positivity rate, or the percentage of tests that are positive, is “going in the wrong direction” in more than 30 states.

“I’m pretty glum at the moment because it does look as though in the majority of states there’s an increasing number of cases,” Dr. William Schaffner, an epidemiologist at Vanderbilt University, said. “There’s a growing sense of coronavirus fatigue out there. People really want to get back to the old normal.”

Schaffner said he expects the U.S. to experience a “substantial third wave”

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