July 10, 2020

'The tsunami is here': States see death rates rise as US reports another record increase in coronavirus cases

Daily Briefing

    The United States on Thursday reported another single-day record increase of 59,880 new coronavirus cases, and data indicates that growth in U.S. deaths tied to the virus is beginning to accelerate, as well.

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    US new coronavirus cases surpass 3.1M, deaths top 133K

    As of Friday morning, U.S. officials reported 3,131,500 total cases of the new coronavirus since the country's epidemic first began—up from 3,071,600 cases reported as of Thursday morning.

    The increase marked the sixth time in 10 days that the United States reported a record-high number of new coronavirus cases in a single day. The previous record, which U.S. officials reported on Wednesday, was 59,400 cases.

    Data from the Times shows the U.S. Virgin Islands; Puerto Rico; Washington, D.C.; and 36 states saw their average daily numbers of newly reported coronavirus cases rise over the past 14 days: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

    On Thursday, six states—Alabama, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Oregon, and Texas—each reported record-high single-day increases in their totals of new coronavirus cases, the Times reports.

    Meanwhile, the Times' data shows that the average daily numbers of newly reported coronavirus cases over the past two weeks remained mostly stable in Guam and 11 states: Arkansas, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming.

    Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont saw their average daily numbers of newly confirmed cases decrease over the past 14 days, according to the Times' data.

    While growth in America's national coronavirus-related death rate had been declining for several weeks, new data suggests that rate is accelerating once again. According to Times' data, officials reported more than 800 deaths among people infected with the new coronavirus in each of the past three days, representing a 60% increase in newly reported coronavirus-related deaths when compared with the same period last week.

    On Thursday, Florida alone reported 120 deaths linked to the new coronavirus, marking the state's highest reported daily increase in coronavirus-related deaths since America's epidemic first began.

    Overall, officials as of Friday morning had reported a total of 133,079 U.S. deaths linked to the new coronavirus—up from 132,237 deaths reported as of Thursday morning.

    What's causing the spikes?

    Many public health experts and officials have said the resurgence of America's coronavirus epidemic stems from states moving too quickly to reopen nonessential businesses, lift stay-at-home orders, and ease social distancing and other measures aimed at slowing the virus' spread.

    "Several months ago, I warned of a potential tsunami if we did not take this more seriously," Richard Cortez, a judge for Texas' Hidalgo County, said Thursday. "The tsunami is here."

    In a podcast released Thursday, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said, "There are some times when despite the guidelines and the recommendations to open up carefully and prudently, some states skipped over those and just opened up too quickly."

    Fauci added that the new coronavirus is particularly difficult to control. "[I]t really is the perfect storm and [an] infectious disease and public health person's worst nightmare. It's a spectacularly transmissible virus," he said. "The efficiency with which this transmits is really striking."

    But during a separate interview on Thursday with The Hill's Steve Clemons, Fauci stopped short of calling for states to reinstitute stay-at-home orders. "Rather than think in terms of reverting back down to a complete shutdown, I would think we need to get the states pausing in their opening process," he said.

    That comment appears to conflict with a statement Fauci made Wednesday during an interview with the Wall Street Journal. Then, Fauci had told the Journal that states "having a serious problem" controlling the new coronavirus' spread "should seriously" consider reimplementing stay-at-home orders and other measures intended to curb the virus' transmission.

    Other public health officials also have said it may be necessary for states to reimpose stay-at-home orders.

    For example, Farshad Fani Marvasti, director of public health at the University of Arizona College of Medicine Phoenix, said although "[s]tay-at-home is a blunt instrument … when you're leading the world in new cases and things don't seem to be getting better, you may have to use that blunt instrument."

    Some hospitals cancel scheduled surgeries to cope with surges in Covid-19 patients

    As America's number of new coronavirus cases continues to surge, hospitals in states grappling with outbreaks are becoming overwhelmed with patients with Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

    Data from Arizona's Department of Health Services shows that, of this week, more than 90% of the state's ICU beds were occupied. Similarly, hospital-bed capacity in Florida has fallen sharply over the past month, and 56 ICUs in the state have reached their capacity, Axios reports. In addition, data from Texas' Department of State Health Services shows that only a few ICU beds are available in some of the state's most populous areas.

    Some hospitals have begun canceling scheduled surgeries for non-emergent care in an effort to preserve resources and staff to care for patients with Covid-19.

    In Florida, for example, more than a dozen HCA Healthcare hospitals will postpone inpatient surgeries and procedures. Ravi Chari, president of the HCA Healthcare West Florida Division, in a statement issued Wednesday said, "The number of Covid cases in our hospitals are increasing daily, and we need to ensure that our caregivers and hospitals are in a position to provide safe, effective, and compassionate care to our patients." He added, "We will continue to monitor the situation closely, making adjustments as necessary."

    Other Florida health systems—including BayCare Health System, Jackson Health System, Memorial Healthcare, and Baptist Health—also have stopped performing non-urgent procedures, Modern Healthcare's "Transformation Hub" reports. Some hospitals in Arizona and California have made similar moves.

    But hospitals in other coronavirus transmission hot spots are not canceling or delaying scheduled procedures. According to Kaiser Health News, those hospitals say they're better prepared to handle surges in Covid-19 patients now than they were when America's coronavirus epidemic first peaked in the spring.

    "What we now realize is that shutting down the entire health care system in anticipation of a surge is not the best option," Carmela Coyle, president of the California Hospital Association, told KHN (New York Times, 7/10 [1]; Musgrave, Palm Beach Post, 9/9; Almasy, CNN, 7/9; Herman, Axios, 7/9; Sullivan, The Hill, 7/9; Witte, Washington Post, 7/9; Kacik, "Transformation Hub," Modern Healthcare, 7/9; Young, Kaiser Health News, 7/9; New York Times, 7/9).

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