The country’s five highest days of coronavirus cases have all been recorded since October 29, affirming experts’ warnings another surge is well on its way and will only get worse. The nationwide 7-day average of new cases now stands at about 86,363 — more than double what it was on September 4. And while doctors have stressed basic public health measures like masks and social distancing can turn things around, such measures remain a point of contention in some parts of the US.
Now only five states are trending in the right direction — Alabama, Hawaii, Louisiana, Tennessee and Vermont — while at least 36 are reporting more new cases than the previous week, data from Johns Hopkins University shows.
And states including Idaho, Ohio, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin all reported a record number of new Covid-19 cases Tuesday.
In Kentucky, where the governor has long cautioned that infections were climbing quickly, he said Tuesday that “every day, things appear to be getting worse.”
“We are seeing not only a surge in the virus, but more and more of our kids by percentage who are getting it,” Gov. Andy Beshear said in a statement.
His words follow an alarming new report saying that Covid-19 case counts were impacting children around the country at “unprecedented levels,” with the last week of October seeing the highest one-week spike in new infections. Hospitalizations among Americans are also up, and hundreds of people continue to lose their lives from the virus every day. More than 232,000 have died in the US since the start of the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins. And about another 100,000 Americans will die in just the next two months, projections from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation show.
Hospitalizations ‘sharply increasing’ in Midwest
Across the country, more than 50,000 people are hospitalized with the virus, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project — an increase of more than 67% in a month.
Hospitalizations are “sharply increasing” in the Midwest, according to the project.
“In the region there are 238 people currently hospitalized per million people,” it said on Twitter.
In Nebraska, health officials say a surge of infections have put a strain on hospitals statewide. Chief medical officers of three major hospital systems said Monday Covid-19 hospitalizations had increased 91% in the Omaha metro area between October 17 and October 31. Now, hospital capacity and staff are approaching their limits, the hospital officials said.
“We have seen a doubling of Covid positive patients in the last several weeks,” Dr. Cary Ward, chief medical officer of CHI Health, said. “No doubt if this trend continues, not just our hospitals, but every hospital in the state could be at capacity.”
In Indiana, hospitalizations reached a record high Monday, with more than 1,800 patients being treated for Covid-19. The state’s previous record was on April 13, when about 1,799 people were hospitalized.
Covid-19 third leading cause of death in Arkansas
And in Arkansas, the governor announced Tuesday Covid-19 was the third leading cause of death in the state, preceded only by cancer and heart attacks.
“It is a deadly virus that takes people’s lives,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said. “We want to make sure everybody understands the seriousness of it.”
And across the state, more than 660 people remain hospitalized, he added.
In the northeast and central areas of the state, bed capacity is “tight” according to Bo Ryall, president and CEO of the Arkansas Hospital Association said Tuesday. About 10% of occupied beds have Covid-19 patients, 26% of occupied ICU beds have Covid-19 patients, while 31% of ventilators are used by Covid-19 patients at “some of the highest numbers that we’ve seen in those areas,” Ryall said.
“If we continue to see these cases escalate, we in turn will have hospitalizations increase, and the stress on the health care system will be felt. Hospitals are stretched thin in some areas and we ask that you please adhere to the safety measures again,” Ryall said.
NIH Director: Masks could save 130,000 lives by March
Face masks, a powerful tool that doctors and public health officials have vouched for in the battle against the virus, can help save tens of thousands of lives in the coming months, one leading expert helped emphasize this week.
More than 130,000 lives could be saved in the US if most Americans chose to wear masks, Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, wrote in a blog post Tuesday. Collins cites data from the team of the IHME model, which predicts the drastic decline in the country’s projected death toll if 95% of Americans wore masks.
“What’s important here aren’t the precise numbers,” Francis wrote. “It’s the realization that, under any scenario, this pandemic is far from over, and, together, we have it within our power to shape what happens next.”
It’s an argument that’s been made multiple times in the past months by officials nationwide: if Americans wore face coverings, social distanced, avoided crowds and washed their hands regularly, those measures could be nearly as powerful as lockdowns in helping curb the spread of the virus.
“Think about it in the same way you think about putting on your seat belt — a minor inconvenience that can save lives,” Collins wrote. “I’m careful to wear a mask outside my home every time I’m out and about. But, ultimately, saving lives and livelihoods as we head into these winter months will require a collective effort from all of us.”
CNN’s Claudia Dominguez, Joe Sutton and Rebekah Riess contributed to this report.