US Coronavirus: North Dakota allows infected health care workers to continue working as hospitals hit capacity

Hospitals in the state, which has no requirement to wear a mask, are at 100% capacity, Burgum said.

“Our hospitals are under enormous pressure now,” Burgum said. “We can see the future two, three weeks out, and we know that we have severe constraints.”

All over the country, many hospitals are already at their breaking point, with overwhelmed and overworked staff members and a continuing surge of patients.

Hospitals are particularly stretched thin across the Midwest, which has led this third wave of infections. The number of people hospitalized for coronavirus doubled in the past month in Wisconsin, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Ohio, among elsewhere.
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In Illinois, most regions are seeing “far higher rates” of Covid-19 hospitalizations than they did in the spring, the governor said Tuesday.

“Statewide, we are now averaging more than 4,200 patients with Covid-19 in the hospital. Our highest average in the spring was 4,822 … In short, we’re now just hundreds short of our Covid hospitalization numbers last spring,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said.

The surge is likely to continue. More people will be hospitalized in the coming weeks given that hospitalizations follow several weeks behind new infections, and Tuesday marked the eighth consecutive day that the US reported more than 100,000 new cases. Deaths, which have ticked up in the past week, are expected to then follow.

Public health officials have warned that unless Americans lean into public safety measures like face masks and social distancing, things could quickly get much worse by 2021 when Joe Biden and Kamala Harris enter the White House.

“By the time that the Biden-Harris administration takes over, this virus is going to have already run rampant through the communities across the United States,” Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency physician at Brown University, said Sunday.

“We’re just heading into the very worst of this pandemic,” Ranney said. “We’re about to see all of these little epidemics across the country, crossed and mixed, and it’s going to be an awful lot like pouring gasoline on a fire.”

Texas surpasses 1 million total cases

The US has now recorded more than 10.2 million infections since the pandemic’s start and more than 239,000 people have died, according to Johns Hopkins University.

As the virus continues running unabated across American communities, not a single state is trending in the right direction. And 44 states have reported at least 10% more new cases than the previous week — 11 of which reported at least a 50% increase.

This week, Texas became the first US state to surpass one million known Covid-19 cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins. In El Paso, one of the hardest-hit communities in the country, officials have requested four more trailers to add to six mobile morgues already on the ground, as cases and hospitalizations spike.
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“I’ve seen more death in the last three weeks than I’ve seen in a year,” one registered nurse told CNN affiliate KFOX. “I’ve done compressions on more people in the last three weeks than I have in a year.”

California’s total number of infections is also inching closer to a million. More than 18,000 Californians have died since the start of the pandemic and infections, positivity rates and hospitalizations are all on the rise in the state, the governor said.

“People are letting their guard down by taking their masks off,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom said earlier this week. “They’re starting to get together, outside of their household cohorts.”

Oklahoma’s health department reported the state is down to just 7% of adult ICU bed availability, with about 62 ICU beds available.

Hospitals statewide asked for help in a “couple of ways,” Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt said Tuesday.

“One was to reactivate a system called the Regional Medical Response System,” he said. “This system is used in tornadoes or large disasters. It is designed to transfer patients between hospitals. This makes sure Oklahomans are connected to a hospital bed as quickly as possible.”

New treatment and early vaccine data

The US also received some good news this week. Early data from Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine shows it is more than 90% effective, the drugmaker announced Monday.
Also Monday, the US Food and Drug Administration said it had issued an emergency use authorization for Eli Lilly and Co’s monoclonal antibody therapy to treat mild to moderate Covid-19 infections in adults and children. The single antibody treatment, called bamlanivimab, must be infused in a hospital or other health care setting.
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Distribution of the newly approved treatment will begin this week, US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Tuesday, adding it will be provided free of charge.

“Getting new therapeutics like this to patients has the potential to save thousands of lives and significantly reduce the disease’s burden on our health care system,” Azar said.

This is the first monoclonal antibody to be authorized for use in treating the virus. And it’s also an important first step in developing treatments that will help prevent people from being hospitalized with Covid-19, Fauci said Tuesday.

The treatment is “just one of a number of things that we’re doing to look at the disease early on and prevent people from being hospitalized,” he told MSNBC.

Doctors express concerns on rollout plans

Still, some doctors have serious reservations about the Trump administration’s Covid-19 antibody treatment rollout. Doctors from Harvard shared their concerns in an editorial published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The editorial focuses on Regeneron’s treatment, which has not yet been given an emergency use authorization from the FDA.

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Dr. Robert Goldstein, an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School, said he believes Regeneron should get the nod soon, and what he knows about the rollout plans for its treatment and Eli Lilly’s treatment could put a serious strain on the system and potentially worsen inequities in treatment.

Goldstein said doctors still don’t have a lot of detail about which patients best benefit from the treatments. Much of what doctors know comes from news releases.

“We don’t like to practice medicine by press release,” Goldstein told CNN. News releases may reassure investors, Goldstein said, but they leave doctors with too many questions about who to treat — especially in cases like this one, when treatments are in such limited supply.

Goldstein is also concerned about the way the antibody treatments need to be administered. They’re infused and must be given in a health care office that has the space for someone to be infused for an hour and then observed for another hour. Many safety net and rural health care systems do not have this kind of capacity, he said.

CNN’s Andy Rose, Joe Sutton, Gisela Crespo, Jen Christensen, Sarah Moon, Leanna Faulk and Raja Razek contributed to this report.

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