Urban schools giving up in face of new virus surge
However, some states are maintaining hands-off approach to prevention
School systems in Detroit, Indianapolis, Philadelphia and suburban Minneapolis are giving up on in-person classes, and some governors are reimposing restrictions on bars and restaurants or getting more serious about masks, as the coast-to-coast resurgence of the coronavirus sends deaths, hospitalizations and new infections soaring.
On Thursday, the U.S. reported more than 150,000 daily coronavirus cases, the country’s seventh record mark for new infections in the last nine days.
The U.S. also reported more than 66,000 hospitalizations on Thursday, which is a record. And according to Johns Hopkins University data, California on Thursday passed the 1 million cases mark, which Texas reached earlier this week.
The ongoing surge has led to new restrictions in areas such as Chicago, whose mayor said that starting Monday, residents should leave home only to go to work or school, or for essential needs, such as seeking medical care or getting groceries.
The crisis deepened at hospitals, with the situation so bad in North
Dakota that the governor this week said nurses who test positive but have no symptoms can still work. Idaho clinics struggled to handle the deluge of phone calls from patients. And one of Utah’s biggest hospital systems is bringing in nearly 200 traveling nurses, some of them from New York City.
The virus is blamed for more than 242,000 deaths and over 10.5 million confirmed infections in the U.S., with the country facing what health experts say will be a disastrous winter because of disregard for mask wearing and other precautions, the onset of cold weather and crowded holiday gatherings.
“It should frighten all of us,” Dr. David Peterman, CEO of Idaho’s Primary Health Medical Group, said of the virus numbers. “It’s easy to look at TV, and say, ‘I’m not in the intensive care unit, my grandmother’s not in the intensive care unit.’ But if I say to you your doctor cannot treat your child with an ear infection because I cannot answer your phone call, or your doctor is on quarantine, or our clinics are full with people with coronavirus?”
Deaths per day in the U.S. have soared more than 40% over the past two weeks, from an average of about
790 to more than 1,100 as of Wednesday, the highest level in three months.
That is still well below the peak of about 2,200 deaths per day in late April, in what may reflect the availability of better treatments and the increased share of cases among young people, who are more likely than older ones to survive a bout with COVID-19.
Still, amid the staggering numbers, some state leaders maintained a hands-off approach, pushing “personal responsibility” rather than government-imposed restrictions such as mandatory mask wearing.
Reflecting what has largely been a divide between red and blue states, Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma has refused to impose a mask mandate, citing concerns about enforcement and a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Instead, he held a news conference this week with doctors who implored residents to wear masks.
In North Dakota, nurses opposed GOP Gov. Doug Burgum’s move to allow health care workers who test positive to remain on the job, saying scientifically proven measures such as a mask mandate should be tried first. Burgum has declined to do that.
Federal health officials have reached an agreement with pharmacies across the U.S. to distribute free coronavirus vaccines after they are approved and become available to the public.
The goal eventually is to make getting a COVID-19 vaccine like getting a flu shot.
Thursday’s agreement with major chain drugstores, supermarket pharmacies and other chains and networks covers about 3 in 5 pharmacies in all states and U.S. territories such as Puerto Rico.
It looks ahead to a time in the spring when yet-to-beapproved vaccines will start to become available beyond priority groups such as health care workers and nursing home residents.
“The vast majority of Americans live within five miles of a pharmacy,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, calling the agreement “a critical step toward making sure all Americans have access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines when they are available.”
COVID-19 deaths per day in the U.S.
have soared more than 40% over the past two weeks.
The surge of coronavirus cases appears to be slowing in Germany and France, generating hopes that the two European heavyweights are beginning to regain control over the pandemic. But authorities said Thursday that hospitals are crowded and are likely to face further strain in the coming weeks.
Countries across Europe have implemented lockdown measures of varying intensity in recent weeks as they try to tamp down a second wave of the pandemic, with numbers of confirmed cases hitting records. They have largely overwhelmed contacttracing efforts even in Germany, which was credited with handling the pandemic’s first cases well and is still in better shape than most of its neighbors.