COVID-19 : Coming months will be ‘worst case scenario’ of covid in the US, says expert

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. – Across the United States, preparations are underway to rapidly distribute covid-19 vaccines once licensed, but experts say that before that promise of relief, the next few months will likely be difficult.

What will come next is probably the “worst case scenario in the country in terms of overwhelmed hospitals, in terms of death toll,” according to emergency medicine doctor Dr. Leana Wen.

“There are so many viruses in our communities right now,” he said.

His words echoed a grim prognosis by the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Robert Redfield, who warned Wednesday that the next three months will be “the most difficult in the history of the public health of this nation.

It is a sad reality that is already reflected in the numbers. In the last two days, more than 200,000 new cases have been registered daily. And as infection numbers rise, the United States has been adding a million cases to its total count every six days for the past three weeks.

Hospitalizations also hit six figures for the first time this week, with more than 100,600 COVID-19 patients nationwide, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

And for the second day in a row, on Thursday, the US reported more than 2,800 deaths from covid-19, breaking a dismal record the country had set a day earlier.

Healthcare systems under stress

Top health officials have long warned that the surge in cases would be followed by increased numbers of hospitalizations that could cripple health care systems across the country. Hospitals and experts across the United States are sounding the alarm.

Marvin O’Quinn, president and chief operating officer of CommonSpirit Health, which runs hospitals in 21 states, told CNN they are seeing an increase in patients across all hospitals.

“We now have approximately 2,100 positive cases in our hospitals. That’s a nearly 70% increase from November 11, “O’Quinn said. “We are seeing about 70 to 100 new cases every day.”

READ: US reports more than 3,100 deaths from coronavirus in a single day, 20% more than the previous record

In Pennsylvania, just under 5,000 people are hospitalized with COVID-19, and two parts of the state are getting closer to a staff shortage, Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said Thursday.

“It is very important to remember that we all need to be aware, that we all have a role to play in what is happening in hospitals right now,” Levine said. “You may not need hospital care at this time; You may not have a loved one in the hospital at this time. But what is happening in our hospitals has a direct impact on you. It has a direct impact on the mitigation steps you must take to contain the spread of the virus.

“The people who make our health care system work trust you to do the right thing,” he continued.

In Ohio, Governor Mike DeWine warned that hospitals were not only in crisis, but that “the crisis is getting worse and worse.”

Dr. Andy Thomas of The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center told reporters that one-third of ICU patients statewide were positive for COVID-19. In some rural hospitals, Covid-19 patients made up as much as 60% of the ICU population, Thomas added.

“That’s not sustainable for those hospitals to be able to run it,” Thomas said. “The most difficult area for hospitals to increase their capacity, or their number of beds, is in the intensive care unit.”

And hospitals across the country have yet to see the impacts that Thanksgiving gatherings and travel could bring, and another surge is projected to begin to take shape in the coming weeks.

Michael Osterholm, a member of President-elect Joe Biden’s Covid-19 Transitional Advisory Board, said measures are urgently needed to help slow the spread and prevent hospitals from being “invaded.”

“I’d rather do it now and try to avoid future cases than wait to try to put this in place when the house is so on fire that we’ve actually crossed our case cliff and the hospitals are basically literally overrun,” he said. “That is what we are up against.”

New strict measures

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In California, hospitals are treating about 2,066 COVID-19 patients in intensive care units, according to data from the state health department. That is the highest number since the start of the pandemic.

The grim figure comes when Governor Gavin Newsom announced a strict regional stay-at-home order. The order will go into effect 48 hours after the hospital’s intensive care unit capacity falls below 15% in one of five regions the state is divided into: Northern California, Bay Area, Greater Sacramento, San Joaquin Valley and Southern California.

Projections show that four of those five regions will hit that threshold in the next few days, with only the Bay Area expected to remain open through mid-to-late December, Newsom said.

“We are at a turning point in our fight against the virus and we must take decisive action now to prevent California’s hospital system from being overwhelmed in the coming weeks,” he said.

Delaware Governor John Carney announced a stay-at-home recommendation Thursday, telling residents to avoid indoor gatherings with anyone outside their home from Dec. 14 to Jan. 11, he said. the governor’s office.

“A vaccine is on the way, but make no mistake, we are facing the most difficult months of this crisis,” the governor said in a statement. «I know that we are all tired of covid-19, but he is not tired of us. We are pleading with the people of Delaware to do the right thing. “

Meanwhile, the lockdown at the Navajo Nation that will expire at the end of this weekend will now be extended for another three weeks.

“Our health care experts now say that the current surge or surge is much more serious and troublesome than the wave we saw in April and May,” President Jonathan Nez said in a written statement on Thursday.

Under lockdown, Navajo citizens must remain home at all times except for essential activities, emergencies, and outdoor exercise.

READ: Why was the UK the first to authorize a coronavirus vaccine?

Governors expect first doses of vaccines to arrive soon

Meanwhile, state and local leaders have started giving updates on when they expect their first batches of vaccines to arrive. No vaccine has been approved for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday that the city is expected to receive the first round of covid-19 vaccines in about 12 days. The initial doses will come from Pfizer and about a week later, the city will receive the Moderna vaccines, de Blasio said.

The priority will be to give vaccinations to health workers and high-risk workers and residents of nursing homes, the mayor said.

“Over time, there will be enough vaccines for everyone,” de Blasio said, but for now, the city is working on “the fastest and most efficient distribution.”

In New Hampshire, the governor announced that the state expects to receive the first doses of the Pfizer vaccine in the third week of December, adding that the Moderna vaccine will come the following week.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker said he expects about 300,000 doses of the covid-19 vaccine by the end of the month. Healthcare workers and residents and staff at long-term care facilities “will be absolutely near the top of the list” for the first few doses, Baker said, as the state prepares to officially publish its treatment plan. distribution on Friday.

Redfield, director of the CDC, has accepted the covid-19 vaccine recommendations that were voted on this week by the agency’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

Advisers voted 13-1 Tuesday to recommend that healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities be first in line for any FDA-cleared vaccine. But top federal health officials say the CDC guidance is just that: guidance.

States can use those recommendations, as well as the advice of other experts, to come up with the best allocation plans for their residents based on their own circumstances, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Thursday.

What challenges lie ahead?

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Top health officials are continually working to determine how distribution of a vaccine would work best in different communities, once the green light is obtained.

“There is a huge gap between a loading dock and a person’s arm,” said Rick Bright, a member of Biden’s Covid-19 Transition Advisory Board. “We are looking very closely at the complicated route between the manufacture of the vaccine and the delivery and administration of that vaccine.”

“We understand that there is still a lot of work to be done at the local level, at the state level, and at the tribal and territorial level to make sure that there is an infrastructure in place to be able to administer those vaccines, to make sure that there are people on site and they are trained to be able to administer those vaccines, ”he said.

Also, he said, work is still going on to ensure that there are messengers in every community who are briefing residents “in all the necessary languages ​​to make sure people can understand the value of that vaccine and trust that vaccine and stand in line for get that vaccine.

The biggest challenge still lies ahead, according to Dr. Marcella Núñez-Smith, co-chair of the advisory council.

“In some of our hardest hit communities, we know there is a degree of hesitancy and caution around vaccines,” he told NBC News.

“What we have to do is find out what questions people have,” he said. “At the same time, we have to recognize that trust between Americans and the federal government has waned and it will take work to rebuild and restore that trust.”

CNN’s Andrea Diaz, Taylor Romine, Andy Rose, Cheri Mossburg, Rebekah Riess, Ganesh Setty, Shelby Lin Erdman, Sahar Akbarzai, Jon Passantino, and Evan Simko-Bednarski contributed to this report.