Colorado Gov. Jared Polis ordered the state’s Emergency Operations center to return to the highest level of operations so that all agencies, federal partners and voluntary organizations can work together to respond to the spread and hospitals can prepare for threats to capacity, the governor’s office said Saturday.
“I will never give up on Coloradans and I know we have the resolve to do what is necessary to defeat this virus,” Polis said in the release. “We simply must do a better job of wearing masks, physically distancing and avoiding social interactions with those outside our households. It’s up to us, Colorado, the time for change is now.”
With 1,100 residents in the hospital with the virus and more than 4,400 new cases reported Saturday, the state health department said, Colorado is just one of many states racing to respond to spiking cases. Across the country, 45 states are reporting an increase of cases above 10% compared to last week, which has brought the national total to more than 10.9 million cases and 245,600 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
West Virginia reported more than 1,000 cases in one day for the first time in the pandemic on Saturday. The same day, Kentucky added a record 3,303 new cases, according to a statement from Gov. Andy Beshear, who added that the “outlook is grim.”
“Please take this seriously. You are either a part of the solution fighting the good fight to help other people or you’re helping to spread this virus,” Beshear warned residents.
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced a temporary statewide closure of in-person services for non-essential activities through the end of the month and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown ordered a two-week freeze across the state beginning Wednesday. Bars and restaurants are limited to delivery or takeout, gyms will be closed and businesses are asked to have employees work from home as much as possible.
The upcoming holidays could send cases skyrocketing even further, Dr. James Phillips, chief of disaster medicine at George Washington University Hospital, told CNN’s Erica Hill Saturday.
Hospitals already under pressure ahead of spikes
Already, hospitals are feeling the consequences of new highs of coronavirus cases.
As of Saturday, 69,455 people were hospitalized with the virus, according to the COVID Tracking Project. It marked the fifth consecutive day of hospitalization records, with 68,500 recorded the day before.
In Colorado, 180 new hospital admissions were reported Saturday, with 43% of adult critical care ventilators in use and 15% of beds occupied by confirmed and suspected Covid-19 patients in the state, the health website shows.
Hospitals in the state are now working to increase their capacity, augment their staff and scale back elective procedures, according to the governor’s release.
And the anticipated surge is not going to help, experts say.
“Things are going to get much, much worse,” said Dr. Leana Wen, a CNN medical analyst and former Baltimore Health commissioner. She expressed concern over the impact on the already-strained health care system when the new cases added in recent days are reflected in hospitalizations.
“We have this firestorm of coronavirus all across the country,” Wen said. “It’s not one or two hotspots, the entire country is a hotspot of coronavirus infection.”
Flu season collides with the pandemic
In addition to bringing people inside and increasing spread, health experts have warned that flu season could complicate the pandemic.
Flu and coronavirus can cause many of the same symptom, US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams said Saturday, which can confuse patients experiencing symptoms.
But Adams said there is a particular symptom that likely indicates a coronavirus infection.
“The one symptom that I would alert people to that really differentiates flu from Covid is loss of taste or smell,” Adams said on NPR’s “All Things Considered.” “If you get that symptom, then you need to be reaching out to your health provider right away and going in and getting a Covid test.”
Adams encouraged the public to get a flu shot this year and warned not to self-diagnose. A health care provider can give better answers so patients can respond appropriately to their symptoms.
“Covid seems to spread much more easily than the flu, and it causes much more serious illnesses in some people,” he said.
Navajo Nation cracks down on cases
Starting Monday, the Navajo Nation will implement three weeks of stricter health measures to manage the virus, according to a released issued by the Nation.
In total, 13,069 coronavirus cases have been confirmed and 598 people have died in the Navajo Nation, according to the nation’s Covid-19 dashboard.
Two public health orders and one executive order have been issued. One of the orders requires all government offices and enterprises to close from November 16 through December 6, except for essential employees needed to maintain essential services and government functions, according to the release. The order also requires all schools to go online for that time period, the release said.
A second order implements a three-week stay at home lockdown and will restrict any travel off of the Navajo Nation. Residents are allowed to leave their homes for emergencies or to get groceries, medicines, and firewood, according to the release.
“We have to implement these public health measures to protect our Navajo people and reduce the spread of this virus,” Navajo National President Jonathan Nez said in the release. “We are inching closer and closer to a major public health crisis in which we could potentially see our hospitals filling up with patients.”
“The safest place to be is at home here on the Navajo Nation,” Nez added.
CNN’s Christina Maxouris, Jay Croft, Dakin Andone, Elizabeth Joseph, Alec Snyder and Hollie Silverman contributed to this report.