Americans voted Tuesday amid a resurgent pandemic. The number of cases across the country has been alarming, with the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 reaching record highs in a growing number of states.
While daily infections increased in all but three states, the increase was most pronounced in the Midwest and Southwest.
Missouri, Oklahoma, Iowa, Indiana, Nebraska, North Dakota and New Mexico reported record hospital stays this week. The largest hospitals in Nebraska began restricting elective surgery and tried to bring in nurses from other states to cope with the increase. Hospital officials in Iowa and Missouri warned that bed capacity could soon be overwhelmed.
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The resurgence loomed over candidates and voters fearful of both the virus itself and the economic toll of new shutdowns to control its spread. The debate about how far economically costly measures should be taken has divided a country that was already highly polarized over the turbulent four years in office of President Donald Trump.
The infection rate is definitely an early indicator of hospitalization, and the hospitalization rate is an early indicator of mortality.
Meanwhile, Iowa Hospital officials warned that their facilities and staff could be overwhelmed without serious efforts to contain the spread of the virus. According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, the state’s seven-day moving average of positive cases over the weekend hit 36.4 percent, making it the third highest in the nation after South Dakota and Wyoming. Hospital stays hit a record 730 on Monday.
Suresh Gunasekaran, CEO of the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, said Iowa is reaching its third peak, higher than the previous ones in May and July. He said his biggest concern is that this peak will come at the start of the cold weather season, when the flu and other respiratory illnesses typically increase hospital admissions.
“Infection rate is definitely an early indicator of hospitalization and hospitalization is an early indicator of mortality,” Gunasekaran said.
Health officials in Nebraska said hospital stays had doubled in the past few weeks, hitting a record of 613 on Sunday.
“No doubt if this trend continues – not just in our hospitals – but every hospital in the state could be at full capacity in a very short time,” said Dr. Cary Ward, chief medical officer of CHI Health’s 14-person network in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa, said during a video call with reporters.
In Missouri, heads of several rural hospitals raised the alarm during a conference call Monday with Republican Governor Mike Parson, who once again drew fire from his Democratic contender for refusing to grant a nationwide mask mandate. The state health department reported 1,659 hospital stays nationwide, beating the previous record by 10 the previous day. Among the five additional deaths reported on Monday was a 13-year-old boy, the first child under 14 to be born in Missouri on the Virus died.
In Colorado, officials said more residents were hospitalized with the coronavirus than ever since a peak in April. Flags waved at half-time employees in New Mexico, where deaths from COVID-19 topped 1,000 last week and hospital admissions hit a record 380 on Monday.
The virus has killed more than 232,000 people in the country and total confirmed coronavirus cases have exceeded 9 million. As hospital stays have increased, so have deaths. According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, the seven-day moving average for deaths from COVID-19 has increased in the past two weeks from about 58,424 on October 19 to 83,805 on Monday.
Equally worrying is the fear of more economic pain if the country goes through another round of lockdowns to contain the virus. While the US economy grew at a record 33.1 percent per year in the July-September quarter, it did not fully recover from the slump in the spring.
However, there were signs that the virus resurgence was hindering economic reopening, even without government shutdown orders, as an anxious public steers clear of riskier activity.
The Cruise Lines International Association, which represents most of the cruise industry, said its members would extend the suspension of U.S. sailing operations until the end of the year, just days after the U.S. government effectively lifted its no-sailing regulation. The cruise industry group estimates the cessation of cruises lost more than $ 25 billion in economic activity and lost 164,000 American jobs.