With the number of people with Covid-19 being admitted to hospitals rising, several states are looking at their supply of beds.
On Wednesday, an overflow medical facility set up at the Wisconsin State Fair Park in the Milwaukee suburb of West Allis received its first patient.
“We are thankful to have this facility available to Wisconsinites and our hospitals, but also saddened that this is where Wisconsin is at today,” Gov. Tony Evers said. “Folks, please stay home. Help us protect our communities from this highly contagious virus and avoid further strain on our hospitals.”
The facility will take patients who meet specific criteria, and doctors and nurses there can give remdesivir and oxygen treatment, according to the governor’s statement.
The seven-day average for the number of people in the hospital has risen from 749 two weeks ago to 1,098 as of Tuesday, according to data from the state health department.
Wisconsin is not alone in rising numbers. Over the past two weeks, 42 states have seen hospitalizations increase by more than 5%, according to the Covid Tracking Project.
Ten states recorded their highest number of Covid-19 hospitalizations Tuesday: Arkansas, Iowa, Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wisconsin, according to the researchers.
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said Wednesday the hospitalizations in his state are rising and still disproportionately affecting elderly residents and those at long-term care facilities.
He said the state will use National Guard troops to work with staff members at those facilities to help them do things such as screen employees and administer tests “so that the facility staff members can rightly focus on what they do best and that’s caring directly for the residents.”
‘Horrible winter’ is ahead, top doctor says
The data around Covid-19 in the US is not comforting. Daily reports of cases are rising, and one health expert says we’re a week away from a “rapid acceleration” of the numbers. Another top doctor said Wednesday it is going to be a difficult winter.
“Everyone is exhausted, and nobody wants to hear more bad news, but it’s pretty clear that this fall/winter surge is now finally arriving,” Dr. Peter Hotez told CNN’s Brianna Keilar.
Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, also said this pandemic will not go on forever. Things will get better with the arrivals of vaccines and therapeutics next year but “this is going to be a horrible winter, unfortunately,” he said.
Hotez’s comments come as the national seven-day case average has risen 70% in five and a half weeks, Johns Hopkins University data show.
Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration, told CNBC on Monday evening: “I think we’re about two or three weeks behind Europe – so we’re about a week away from starting to enter a period where we’re going to see a rapid acceleration in cases.”
Dr. Richard Besser, former acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday respiratory viruses like cold weather, but the situation doesn’t have to get so dire.
“It depends how we respond,” he said. “If public health is charged with investigating what’s going on, and takes actions, makes recommendations, and we take actions based on that, then the rise will be blunted somewhat.”
He said communities need to be prepared to have testing available and other resources for areas that see spikes in cases.
“The more targeted you can be, the more you’re going to be able to get past all this pandemic fatigue, which is leading a lot of people who are doing the right thing to start to slip and not do everything they used to do,” he said.
Volunteer in vaccine trial in Brazil dies
A volunteer taking part in Brazil’s trial of AstraZeneca’s experimental vaccine has died, according to that nation’s health agency, Anvisa.
It was unclear whether the volunteer received the vaccine or a placebo shot.
Anvisa said no more information was being released for reasons of medical privacy. The trial will continue, officials said.
A spokesman for AstraZeneca declined to comment specifically on the report, but indicated nothing had happened to justify stopping or pausing the trial.
“All significant medical events are carefully assessed by trial investigators, an independent safety monitoring committee and the regulatory authorities,” the spokesman told CNN. “These assessments have not led to any concerns about continuation of the ongoing study.”
At least 44 vaccines are in human trials around the world.
CDC redefines close contact
The CDC has updated its definition of close contact with someone with Covid-19 to include multiple, brief exposures, Director Dr. Robert Redfield said.
The new definition includes exposures adding up to a total of 15 minutes spent six feet or closer to an infected person. Previously, the CDC defined close contact as 15 minutes of continuous exposure to an infected individual.
The agency changed the definition after a report from Vermont of a corrections officer who became infected after several brief interactions with coronavirus-positive inmates – none of them lasting 15 minutes, but adding up over time.
States take additional measures
In Nevada, Gov. Steve Sisolak warned of “Covid fatigue” and said more restrictions could be on the way if residents don’t help bring Covid-19 numbers down. The state’s daily case count has doubled in the past month and its test positivity rate is the highest it’s been since early September – and more than 80% higher than the goal set by World Health Organization officials.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Tuesday several regions of the state will see more restrictive mitigation standards go into effect by the end of the week.
The new measures will include no indoor service for bars and restaurants and a closing time of 11 p.m. for outdoor services. They also include new restrictions on social gatherings, not to exceed 25 people.
“As colder weather approaches and flu season is upon us, we’re going to see the rippling effects of these current unfortunate trends,” Pritzker said in a news release. “The massive surge of cases in our neighboring states will continue to have a spillover effect. There is no easy fix for the effects of this virus on our economy and our public health.”
The governor has previously urged residents to be extra vigilant, warning while the state isn’t seeing as severe effects as nearby regions, that could quickly change. In past weeks, neighboring Wisconsin reported record-high case counts, hospitalizations and daily death toll and Gov. Tony Evers announced a field hospital would open to respond to a surge in patients.
New Mexico is also implementing more measures to help slow the spread, state officials announced.
Starting Friday, businesses that record four “rapid responses” – which occur when an employer reports a case of the virus – in a 14-day period will have to close for two weeks. The new measure will apply to food and drink establishments, retail, lodging and close-contact businesses, officials said.
Retail establishments will also have to close by 10 p.m. every night, officials said. New Mexico experienced “its worst week for Covid-19 infections” last week, health officials said, with a new rate of spread and new case rate among the highest in the US.
In Washington state, Gov Jay Inslee said the state was battling outbreaks on college campuses and “significant increases in Covid-19 infections that have occurred particularly in congregate living areas, like Greek houses, and large social gatherings of students.”
He announced new restrictions for campuses including limiting the number of residents sharing a sleeping area and requiring people in all common areas to wear a mask and remain socially distant.
CNN’s Elizabeth Cohen, Maggie Fox, Raja Razek, Jacqueline Howard, Gisela Crespo, Shelby Lin Erdman, Andy Rose and Lauren Mascarenhas contributed to this report.