As cases rise, pressure mounts at hospitals across the country. (Photo by SJ Objio on Unsplash/)
Just in case things weren’t stressful enough across the nation as the results of a nail-biting election loom ahead, the US just hit an all-time high for new cases of COVID-19 yesterday, this time reaching into six digits.
Across the US, The New York Times estimates that at least 107,000 new cases were reported on November 4, and five separate states, including Colorado, Indiana, Maine, Minnesota, and Nebraska set single-day case records. This comes on the heels of last week where five daily records were broken, and a month in which seven-day case count averages nearly doubled, according to CNN.
Around 9.4 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, with nearly a quarter of a million deaths. And even for those patients who survived their infection, the scientific community still isn’t 100 percent sure what the long-term effects of COVID-19 might be.
Cities across the country are starting to feel the pressure of these mounting case loads, in many cases hitting their “breaking point,” emergency medicine physician Leana Wen told CNN. In the Twin Cities, only nine ICU beds were available as of Wednesday, and dozens of Kansas hospitals are expecting staffing shortages as hospitalizations for COVID-19 surge. Several states still have yet to mandate mask-wearing in public, and in some states, like Kansas, the requirement is not strongly enforced.
“When I see people without a mask, that’s what breaks my heart,” said Jenifer Phelps, a Wichita nurse manager in a coronavirus unit to the Associated Press. “So when I see that, the first thing in my mind is, ‘Well, we’re going to be—the unit’s probably going to be full next week.’”
As far back as June, Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading infectious disease expert, estimated that uncontrolled spread would eventually hit this six-digit level of new infections. On Friday, he told The Washington Post that “we’re in for a whole lot of hurt” as cold weather and holidays rapidly approach.
“All the stars are aligned in the wrong place as you go into the fall and winter season, with people congregating at home indoors,” Fauci said. “You could not possibly be positioned more poorly.”
Mask-wearing is still of utmost importance. Without proper social distancing and other precautionary measures like mask-wearing and hand-washing, COVID-19 deaths could creep to over a million by the end of February, NIH director Francis Collins predicted in a blog post. With proper mask-wearing, up to 130,000 lives could be saved.
Nevertheless, nearly 40 percent of voters said that they would prioritize the economy over limiting the spread of the disease. Despite who wins the election, President Trump, who has continuously spread misinformation and disregarded expert advice, will remain in charge of the national response to the virus until January 20.
“Even if Biden wins, we still have several months of the Trump administration in which the epidemic is at its worst,” Carlos del Rio, an infectious disease expert at Emory University, told The New York Times.
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