After a relatively quiet, normal summer in many parts of the country, COVID-19 cases are now rising steadily again, and experts say they are bracing for a long, deadly, dangerous winter.
It seems that each day another record is broken, but they’re records that nobody wants to achieve: most number of COVID deaths in a day; highest rate of new infections in a day; highest per capita infection rate. In fact, the headline of an article in the New York Times in early December read, “Grim Day in U.S as Covid-19 Deaths and Hospitalizations Set Records.”
According to the data, “new cases are higher and staying high” in at least 35 states across the country. Only three states boast case numbers that are “lower and staying low.”
The White House coronavirus task force didn’t mince words when addressing the pandemic before Thanksgiving. It stated there is “now aggressive, unrelenting, expanding broad community spread across the country, reaching most counties, without evidence of improvement but rather, further deterioration.”
New York Reports Steady Increase in COVID Cases
During the early height of the pandemic, New York City became known as an epicenter of the disease. Though it took New Yorkers longer to emerge from their lockdown than other areas of the country, the city eventually achieved a consistently low infection rate and took strategic measures to reopen schools and businesses.
Unfortunately, it appears that COVID-19 is trying to return with a vengeance to New York, where new cases and deaths continue to add up as the holidays approach. Across New York State, the infection rate at the end of November was about 3.8% on Long Island and up to 8.1% in Western New York. More than 3,000 people were hospitalized and 39 died from the disease on Thanksgiving.
“All the global experts say the same thing: This virus has phases, and as the phase changes your plan should change. We’re seeing an increase with the numbers across the country and within our own state. It started with the fall, and it’s going to continue and probably worsen in the winter,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a briefing after Thanksgiving.
Hospitals Face ICU Bed Shortages- Again
One of the core driving factors to the lockdown implemented in March 2020 was the fear of hospitals becoming overrun with COVID-19 patients and running out of beds and equipment. That fear is once again becoming a reality as more hospitals report too many patients and too few resources.
“Every day, we seem to break our record for total number of new patients,” Dr. Jeff Pothof, University of Wisconsin Hospital emergency room doctor and chief quality officer, reported. “We’re all tired. Everyone is tired. We’re all doing our best. Medicine is a team sport, but we need some help. Things are not going well for us.”
In Pennsylvania, for instance, some counties have run out of ICU beds completely. Hospitals in Georgia are preparing for the same problem and once again weighing the possibility of cancelling elective procedures.
As Gray Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Robert Jansen explained, “We are reaching a point where that is going to become a problem again, just like it was in the summer where we ran out of capacity to take care of patients and we had to cancel elective procedures.”
At least there’s a sliver of good news this time around: doctors, hospitals, experts, and government officials all learned valuable lessons in the spring that can now be applied to save more lives and reduce the impacts of COVID-19’s winter phase.