After weeks of declines, US Covid cases have stalled at high levels: ‘Emergency room is full’ – Community News
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After weeks of declines, US Covid cases have stalled at high levels: ‘Emergency room is full’

Jerry Leonardson, a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) positive patient, sits in his isolation room at Madison Memorial Hospital in Rexburg, Idaho, US, on October 28, 2021.

Shannon Stapleton | Reuters

After weeks of declining US Covid-19 cases, the decline in infections has stalled.

The number of new infections has fallen to an average of more than 74,000 per day in the past week, a drop of 57% from the delta wave’s peak level of 172,500 new cases per day on Sept. 13.

While that’s certainly good news, the downward trajectory has leveled off in recent weeks, with between 70,000 and 75,000 new cases a day coming in for nearly three weeks, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University. Covid hotspots in the US have shifted from much of the South in the meantime.

The daily death toll still remains high, with more than 1,200 fatalities a day in the past week, up 1% from a week ago, Hopkins said.

Cases have fallen most sharply in the south, where the delta wave struck earliest and hardest in summer, with average daily infection in the region about 84% less than peak levels and continuing to decline. The drop has been so strong that Florida, where hospitals were flooded as it battled one of the worst Covid outbreaks in the nation this summer, is now the state with the fewest average daily new cases on a population-adjusted basis.

Other southern states that saw significant delta wave peaks, including Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi, also rank in the bottom ten states as measured by daily new cases per capita.

Hospital admissions and deaths have also fallen in the South. The seven-day average of 112 Covid patients per 1 million residents in the region is the lowest in the country, according to a CNBC analysis of data from the Department of Health and Human Services.

“We came from a very high spot, so we had our peak a little earlier,” said Dr. Sonja Rasmussen, a professor in the Departments of Pediatrics and Epidemiology at the University of Florida College of Medicine, on the declining cases in her state. She noted that the cooler fall and winter temperatures in the typically tropical climate make it easier for Floridians to spend time outdoors, where the virus doesn’t spread as easily as indoors.

“I think we’re really starting to see some seasonality — maybe not the winter-spring like we see with the flu, but more when people are inside more than outside,” she said. “In Florida, we were more indoors in the hot time of summer, and now we have the opportunity to be outdoors more.”

Outside the South of the US it goes the other way. Cases are up 25% in the Midwest, 18% in the Northeast and 4% in the West in the past two weeks. Hospital admissions, which lag behind reported infections, have fallen 9% over the same period in the Northeast, but largely flat in the Midwest and the West.

The Midwest is now the region with the highest number of daily new cases per capita, with the recent rise driven by states like Nebraska, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Minnesota’s current number of cases, averaging about 3,000 per day, is “among the highest we’ve seen so far in 2021,” according to one tweet Tuesday from the state health department. “Unfortunately, the pandemic is far from over,” the tweet read.

Population adjusted cases are the second highest in the West, where New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona have all seen increases of 15% or more in the past fourteen days.

The University of Colorado hospital was overloaded last week, according to Dr. Jonathan Samet, the dean of the university’s public health school and leader of the Covid modeling group, because of a combination of Covid and “all the reasons people go to hospitals. “

“When I talk to my clinical colleagues, things are full, the emergency room is overcrowded,” Samet said, pointing out that his system can meet current demand but has very little room to expand further. Emergency orders from Colorado Governor Jared Polis will allow hospitals to transfer patients to other facilities if necessary, he said, “but hospital reserves or beds are at a lower point than during our big surge a year ago.”

Polis issued an executive order on Oct. 31 allowing the state’s Department of Health and Environment to require hospitals at or near their capacity to stop new admissions and transfer patients to other medical centers. State health officials can now also order hospitals to accept patient transfers.

About 85% of staffed intensive care beds are used statewide in Colorado, according to HHS data, the seventh highest of all states. About 36% of those beds are used for Covid patients, which ranks fourth.

Samet said a combination of colder weather and low vaccination rates in parts of the state helped fuel the recent flare-up.

“Like many states, vaccination is a patchwork quilt,” he said. “Our rural areas tend to have lower vaccination rates, and right now they have the highest rates of illness and hospitalizations.”

However, Samet couldn’t put his finger on why Colorado was going through a particularly bad Covid spike compared to other states. Population-adjusted cases are nearly twice as high in Colorado as neighboring Kansas, although other neighboring states such as Wyoming, Utah, and New Mexico also have unusually bad outbreaks.

“The unvaccinated are the drivers like in a lot of other places, but you know, we’re no different from other states because we have a significant portion of the people who are still unvaccinated and spreading the epidemic,” Samet said. “We know the unvaccinated are crucial, but that doesn’t lead us to why Colorado is at this particular time.”

Rasmussen, the University of Florida physician, also cited low vaccination rates as reasons to believe that Florida and nearby states such as Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama are still at risk for future outbreaks — despite any immunity residents may have built up from the outbreak. summer delta wave.

“Their vaccination rates are not high enough to reassure me that we will not see sustained outbreaks when people come together, especially in areas where vaccination rates are lower,” she said.

The 60.2% of Florida’s fully vaccinated residents is a few percentage points higher than the total percentage in the country, although Rasmussen said there are many counties with lower rates. Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana are all in the bottom ten states, ranked by complete vaccination coverage, at 45.2%, 46.2% and 48%, respectively, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Further advances in treatments and vaccinations could help Covid transition into what experts call an “endemic” virus, meaning it has not been completely eradicated, but will become more manageable and part of the respiratory viruses the country faces every year.

For example, the emergence of new antiviral Covid pills from Merck and Pfizer could help prevent infections from leading to hospitalizations or death. Pfizer’s new treatment is not a substitute for vaccinations, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a Pfizer board member and former FDA commissioner, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” Friday, but it could provide a greater degree of protection for individuals at risk for serious Covid complications.

“When you have therapies that are that effective, that can be a backstop for people for whom vaccines don’t work, people with breakthrough infections — pills are being studied in that setting,” Gottlieb said. “It’s really a safety net against death and disease from this infection.”

Pfizer released data Friday on a Covid pill that reduced the risk of hospitalization and death by 89% in high-risk adults, by combining the drug with an HIV drug to make it work longer in the body. Merck and Ridgeback Therapeutics said in October that their antiviral drug reduced the risk of hospitalization and death by 50% in patients with mild or moderate Covid cases.

Vaccination rates in the US may also receive a boost with the start of President Joe Biden’s workplace vaccine mandates, enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. All companies with at least 100 employees must ensure that their staff is fully vaccinated against Covid by January 4, and any employee who refuses to comply must wear a mask and be tested regularly.

OSHA’s mandate will affect about 84 million private sector workers, although the new rules are already meeting resistance in court.

Covid vaccines have also recently been approved for children ages 5 to 11. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky approved Pfizer’s vaccine last week, paving the way for injections into the arms of younger children.


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