Rise in coronavirus hospitalizations signals pandemic is entering dangerous new phase

Written by on July 4, 2020



Patients suffering from COVID-19 are rapidly filling hospitals across the South and West, with Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas, Nevada and Arizona setting records for hospitalizations Thursday, a sign that the coronavirus pandemic is entering a dangerous new phase.

In Arizona, where the virus appears to be spreading out of control, hospitals rushed to expand capacity and adopted practices similar to those employed at the height of the outbreak in New York City and Italy, including doubling up hospital beds in rooms, pausing elective surgeries and bringing in health-care workers from other states.

Perhaps most chillingly, at the urging of doctors and advisers, state officials this week activated “crisis standards of care” protocols, which determine for hospitals which patients get ventilators and care as the system becomes overwhelmed under the crush of patients.

“I think it’s pretty obvious that we are not going in the right direction,” Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious-disease expert, said during a YouTube live stream.

The coronavirus continued its recent surge across swaths of the United States, with more than 55,000 new cases reported Thursday, eclipsing the record for the largest single-day total that was set on Wednesday.

Deaths, which had declined steadily for several months, also are rising. States reported that 700 people died Thursday of COVID-19 — an increase of more than 25 percent compared to the previous seven-day average.

“We are not flattening the curve right now,” Brett Giroir, the U.S. government’s coronavirus testing coordinator, said during a House hearing. “The curve is still going up.”

Not all states report on the number of current COVID-19 hospitalizations, but even with incomplete data the increases are alarming, since they may presage a rise in deaths following the documented explosion in cases in the South and West and increases in scattered states elsewhere.

“There’s a lag between confirmed case and hospitalization, and between hospitalization and death. So you look at the numbers and you can see how hospital capacity could quickly become strained in coming weeks,” said Saskia Popescu, an epidemiologist at University of Arizona.

As hospitals have become overwhelmed, deaths have risen — not just among COVID patients who get insufficient care, but among those facing other medical crises who don’t seek care from an overwhelmed system because they think they won’t receive it.

Source: Seattle Times


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