June 25, 2020

Yesterday was America's worst day yet for new coronavirus cases

Daily Briefing

    Hospitals in some states are becoming overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients, as the United States on Wednesday reported its highest single-day total of new coronavirus cases since the start of the country's epidemic.

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    US coronavirus cases near 2.4M, death toll tops 121K

    U.S. officials as of Thursday morning reported 2,394,100 cases of the new coronavirus—up from 2,357,200 cases as of Wednesday morning.

    The United States' coronavirus epidemic had seen a downward trend in newly reported cases for six consecutive weeks, as states had closed nonessential businesses, implemented stay-at-home orders, and imposed social distancing and other protocols to curb the virus' spread.

    However, the country's daily number of newly reported coronavirus cases now has grown for more than a week and has surpassed the record-high levels the country reported in April, during the previous peak of the epidemic. U.S. officials on Wednesday reported 36,880 new cases of the coronavirus, which is the largest single-day increase in new cases that the country has reported so far.

    Data from the New York Times shows that 29 states—Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming—saw their average daily numbers of newly reported cases of the novel coronavirus rise over the past 14 days.

    And according to Axios' "Vitals," at least four states have seen their reported cases of the new coronavirus rise by more than 45% over the past week, with new cases spiking by 77% in Arizona, 70% in Texas, 66% in Florida, and 47% in California during that time.

    On Wednesday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) in an interview with CBS affiliate KFDA-TV acknowledged the state is experiencing a "massive outbreak" of Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. Abbott said the state again saw 5,000 people test positive for the virus on Wednesday, and "more than 4,000 people [were] hospitalized because of" the new coronavirus as of Wednesday, as well.

    Meanwhile, the New York Times' data shows that the average daily numbers of newly reported cases over the past two weeks remained mostly stable in Guam, Puerto Rico, and 10 states: Connecticut, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, and South Dakota.

    In addition, Washington, D.C., and 11 states—Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia—saw their average daily numbers of newly confirmed cases decrease over the past 14 days, according to the data.

    As of Thursday morning, officials had reported a total of 121,926 U.S. deaths linked to the new coronavirus—up from 121,178 deaths reported as of Wednesday morning.

    Spikes in Covid-19 hospitalizations straining some hospitals

    As America's coronavirus epidemic resurges, hospitalizations for Covid-19 have again started to rise, straining hospitals in some parts of the country.

    For example, Washington's Yakima Health District this week said the demand for care in Yakima County has exceeded the local health care system's capacity, and hospitals in the county are running out of beds as a result of an ongoing Covid-19 outbreak. Hospitals in the county have had to start sending patients to health care facilities elsewhere in the state.

    Similarly, data from Texas Health and Human Services shows hospitalizations for Covid-19 have risen by 426% in San Antonio, 136% in Austin, and 66% in Dallas since the end of May. As of Wednesday, 97% of ICU beds in Houston's Texas Medical Center were occupied, and data from Texas' Harris County showed that, if coronavirus infections in the county continue to grow at the current pace, ICU beds in the county will reach full capacity in 11 days.

    Meanwhile, data released on Wednesday by the Arizona Department of Health Services showed 88% of the state's ICU beds—or 1,472—were in use, and 581 of the ICU beds were filled by patients with Covid-19, representing a 60% increase since April 16.

    In Kentucky, Ryan Stanton, an ED doctor, said patient volumes at his hospital have increased to 90% of the level seen before the country's epidemic broke out, with Covid-19 patients being treated along with other patients. As a result, Stanton said, "We don't have that cushion we had a couple of months ago, where if there's a surge, we have lots of beds and availability."

    In addition to scarce bed capacity, some hospitals, including Virginia Mason Memorial Hospital, are reporting staffing shortages. As a result, some hospitals have had to transfer patients to other facilities for treatment, causing a strain on hospitals in other areas, as well.

    And while some hospitals aren't yet strained by the new rise in coronavirus cases, providers say they're worried about what could be coming.

    "Currently we have room, but things have to change. This is not good," said Faisal Masud, medical director of critical care medicine at the Houston Methodist hospital system. "The explosion of patients all across, that explosion has to slow down."

    A spokesperson for Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare—which operates hospitals and surgery centers in Arizona, Florida, Texas, and other states—said the hospital system currently has enough capacity, staffing, and personal protective equipment to handle surges in Covid-19 patients.

    However, Eric Toner, a senior scholar with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said although "[m]any of them still have a lot of available capacity … who knows how long that's going to last." He added that hospitals "should be getting themselves ready now."

    Trump admin ends direct funding of 13 coronavirus testing sites

    Meanwhile, the Trump administration on Wednesday announced that it would stop directly funding 13 of the 41 coronavirus testing sites that the federal government launched earlier this year. The 13 testing sites are located across Illinois, New Jersey, Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

    HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Brett Giroir said the testing sites are part of an "antiquated" program the federal government has since moved on from to implement newer testing programs, Reuters reports. Giroir said he had spoken to leaders in all five states, and those leaders agreed that now is "the appropriate time to transition" to other testing options. In addition, Giroir said the states could choose to keep the current sites open by using part of the more than $10 billion in funding the federal government allocated to states last month to support coronavirus testing initiatives.

    "We are not withdrawing federal support," Giroir said. "Federal support is coming in a different way"  (O'Kane, CBS News, 6/25; Kerndi, KIMA-TV/KOMO, 6/23; Hoang, Yakima Herald-Republic, 6/23; Gamboa, NBC News, 6/24; Baker, "Vitals," Axios, 6/25; Rummler, Axios, 6/24; New York Times, 6/25 [1]; Tozzi et al., Bloomberg, 6/24; Goldstein, Washington Post, 6/24; Heavey, Reuters, 6/24; New York Times, 6/25 [2]).

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