On Tuesday, the number of people with Covid-19 in US hospitals exceeded 60,000 for the first time.
The US is currently seeing an average of 1,661 new hospitalizations per day, data from the organization shows.
The numbers are problematic because an increase in hospital admissions is usually followed by an increase in US deaths. Last week there were five days in a row with more than 1,000 Covid-19 deaths – the first time since August.
More than 239,000 people have died in the United States since the pandemic began, according to Johns Hopkins University. Another 110,000 or more deaths are forecast in the next two months, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Assessment at the University of Washington.
Hospitals on the verge of clout
As of Tuesday, 44 states had accumulated at least 10% more Covid-19 cases in the past week than the week before, according to Johns Hopkins.
The rising numbers have started to weigh on American communities.
In Texas, the hardest-hit county of El Paso has six mobile morgues and has asked for four more followers, District Judge Ricardo Samaniego said Monday. That comes when the state has nearly 1 million infections since the pandemic began.
Most regions in Illinois have “far higher rates” of Covid-19 hospitalizations than they did in the spring, Governor JB Pritzker said Tuesday.
Outside of Chicago and the suburb of Cook County, “many Illinois communities are experiencing the worst they have ever seen” when it comes to coronavirus hospitalizations, the governor said.
South Dakota Minister of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon said Tuesday the state is seeing increasing numbers of cases and hospitalizations.
“The number of cases usually translates into a number of hospitalizations two to four weeks later,” she said. “And when we see deaths from these cases, that will come later.”
In Ohio, all parts of the state are experiencing “unprecedented increases” in hospital patients, said Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, the new chief medical officer for the state’s Department of Health.
“Every county in the state is feeling the brunt of the increasing hospital stays in Covid-19,” said Vanderhoff. “If we do not control the spread of the virus and our case numbers, we can no longer take care of the acute patients without postponing important but less urgent measures.”
And among the issues that affect officials – not just in Ohio but across the country – are the tense and exhausted staff who care for the growing numbers of patients.
“We are exhausting the available range of trained staff,” said Vanderhoff. “You cannot escape the rising number of Covid-19 numbers in your communities.”
Utah governor Gary Herbert said the state’s hospital capacity is shrinking and declared a state of emergency and a nationwide mask mandate on Monday.
“You are really on the verge of being unable to admit any more people … especially in our intensive care units,” said the governor on Monday of the state’s shrinking hospital capacity.
Fauci advises Americans to “stay there” with health measures
Dr. Anthony Fauci knows that people across the country are tired of the daily bad news about the pandemic, but he has some advice for Americans.
“Hold on a little longer,” he told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Tuesday. “Do the things you have to do and we’ll be fine.”
Fauci said the situation could get significantly worse with almost all states seeing increasing numbers of cases and some reports of newly reported positive tests and hospitalizations.
“That’s why we are really asking the American public to take it really seriously,” he said.
Help is coming soon through vaccines, which could be dispensed as early as December, said Fauci, who has been director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases for 36 years.
Until a vaccine is approved, Fauci urged Americans to continue to take public health measures recommended by health officials: avoid crowds, social distance outside of your home, wear a mask, and wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.
A vaccine combined with people following public health measures will play a crucial role, Fauci said. He added that he hoped a vaccine would motivate people to practice the public health measures, “because when you know help is on the way, don’t give up.”
The drug maker Pfizer announced on Monday that its Covid-19 vaccine is more than 90% effective according to preliminary data. Fauci said a highly effective vaccine could make more people overcome doubts about vaccination.
“When you hear something is 90 to 95% effective, the more likely someone will want to be vaccinated,” he said.
Fauci said he thinks the majority of Americans will be able to get the two shots required for vaccination by the end of April.
An alarming rise in infections
After reporting 100,000 new coronavirus infections for seven days in a row, the US has exceeded more than 10 million cases in total since the pandemic began – far more than any other country. And that number is likely to continue to rise rapidly, an expert told CNN. “We are seeing cases in this country rise significantly, well beyond what most people have ever thought possible,” said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota on Monday opposite CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “I won’t be surprised if we see over 200,000 new cases every day for the next few weeks.”
The seven-day average of new daily cases in the country stood at 119,238 on Monday – more than three times what it was in mid-September when it hit a low after the summer.
Newark has a curfew
In Newark, New Jersey, where the test positivity rate is 19%, city hotspots are under curfew. The curfew at 9 p.m. (on weekends at 10 p.m.) affects three postcodes.
Mayor Ras Baraka’s order on Tuesday states that only people traveling to work or in an emergency are allowed to be on the street.
“I know we are all tired, but the virus is not. So we have to stay vigilant and do what is necessary to get this under control and save lives,” said Baraka.
Other measures include canceling sports for two weeks, restricting gatherings to 10 people (except for church services), and no one being allowed to visit long-term health facilities during the two weeks.
Other areas that have recently been subject to curfew include Denver and Rhode Island, which described their mandate as “stay-at-home” appointments. El Paso County, Texas recently put a curfew from 10:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m., but it will end on Wednesday.
Azar: The vaccine will be available to vulnerable people by the end of December
A vaccine should be ready by late December for the most vulnerable Americans and by late March to early April for all Americans, US Health Secretary Alex Azar told NBC’s “Today” show on Tuesday.
Azar’s comments came a day after drug maker Pfizer announced that its Covid-19 vaccine appears to be more than 90% effective according to early data. “The schedule is for Pfizer to produce and ship approximately 20 million vaccine doses to us each month from the end of this month in November,” said Azar, adding that another company, Moderna, is already making its vaccine candidate.
“We expected we would have enough vaccines by the end of December to vaccinate our most vulnerable citizens and nursing homes and others. Enough for all health workers and first responders by the end of January, and enough for all Americans by the end of March through the beginning.” April to have general vaccination programs, “Azar said.
Distribution of the company’s two-dose vaccine will be a “logistical challenge,” said Dr. John Burkhardt, Pfizer’s vice president of global research and development in drug safety, on Monday. That’s because the shot needs to be stored at extremely low temperatures, well below the capacity of standard freezers.
“There are a number of very experienced and talented people at Pfizer who work exclusively on this,” he said.
The US will start rolling out new antibody treatments this week
Distribution of a newly approved antibody therapy will begin this week, Azar said Tuesday. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Monday that it had granted emergency approval for monoclonal antibody therapy from Eli Lilly and Co. for the treatment of mild to moderate coronavirus infections in adults and children.
The single antibody treatment called Bamlanivimab will be provided free of charge, Azar said at a press conference.
Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-made proteins that mimic the immune system’s ability to fight off harmful antigens such as viruses. This is the first monoclonal antibody approved for the treatment of coronaviruses.
Bamlanivimab is specifically targeted against the virus’ spike protein, which is designed to block attachment and entry into human cells, according to the FDA.
“When patients receive such new therapeutics, they can save thousands of lives and greatly reduce the burden of the disease on our healthcare system,” said Azar.
This treatment must be by infusion, so the government will require that it be given in hospitals, outpatient departments, or facilities where the infusion can be properly monitored.
About 80,000 cans are available for distribution, though the U.S. government has a contract for more, Azar said.
Priority will be given to states with a greater proportion of the country’s confirmed Covid-19 patients and regions with a greater total number of hospitalized patients, authorities said. The Ministry of Health and Human Services has published online where the first deliveries are going. The FDA approval is based on a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in October. The treatment found that the treatment reduced the risk of hospitalization and relieved some symptoms in a small number of patients with mild to moderate cases of Covid-19.
CNN’s Mirna Alsharif, Jen Christensen, Gisela Crespo, Shelby Lin Erdman, Maggie Fox, Kay Jones, Virginia Langmaid, Lauren Mascarenhas, and Naomi Thomas and Amanda Watts contributed to this report.