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US reports record-breaking number of COVID-19 hospitalizations Friday for fourth straight day

PHOTO CREDITS: GO NAKAMURA/GETTY IMAGES 

The United States reported a record-breaking number of COVID-19 hospitalizations on Friday, with a number of officials around the country urging Americans to cancel Thanksgiving plans to stay home.

Cases are expected to continue to rise after Thanksgiving, further stressing health care systems and prompting new restrictions, said an emergency physician Saturday (CNBC). The seven-day average of new daily cases is more than 140,000, with upward trends in 49 states, and COVID-19 killing more than 1,000 Americans a day each day in the past week (NY Times). Hospitalizations, which have set a national record on Friday for the fourth-straight day, reached 68,516, a figure that has more than doubled in only five weeks (The Covid Tracking Project). 

In response to the rising nationwide hospitalizations and deaths, several states are putting limits on social gatherings, mandating face masks, and encouraging residents to stay home. Other states are restricting business hours of operation and limiting restaurant capacity. Statewide face-covering requirements have been put in place by thirty-five states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, according to a list maintained by AARP. Among these states, Utah and North Dakota joined in recent days, and Maine, Ohio, and West Virginia strengthened their mandates last week (USA Today). 

Hospitals in some parts of the country, especially the Midwest and Western U.S., have been pushed to their limits by the surge of hospitalizations. According to Rich Rasmussen, CEO of the Montana Hospital Association, Montana is among the hardest-hit states in the country, when adjusted for population. Rasmussen went on to describe how staffing limitations severely limit the ability of western hospitals to treat patients in comparison to urban states. “We’re competing with the rest of the nation for staffing and that’s our biggest challenge right now… What we don’t have is the rich depth of staffing that other more urban states have. That is our biggest challenge.”

According to Dr. Alan Kaplan, CEO of UW Health at the University of Wisconsin, midwestern hospitals are experiencing similar staffing issues in both rural and urban communities. “We are short of staff all times, either because they have Covid or they have some other illness…,” he said Thursday, on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.”

How people act over the coming weeks will have a “profound impact,” former Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said Friday. Murthy, the co-chair of President-elect Joe Biden’s Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board, said that this is a “grim day for the country,” because of skyrocketing cases and a climbing death toll. Murthy went on to advise Americans that as the holiday season starts, it is important to wear masks, keep at a safe distance, and to wash hands regularly. “If you’re thinking about going home for Thanksgiving, ask yourself if you can observe these kinds of precautionary practices, because if you can’t, then you may be putting yourself and others at risk,” he cautioned. 

Health officials are urging Americans to use masks during Thanksgiving celebrations, though many fear that the planned friend and family gatherings will fuel the COVID-19 surge. 

The pharmaceutical company Pfizer has announced that its COVID-19 vaccine is more than 90% effective, and the company is expected to apply for emergency use authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration by the end of the month. According to a top Operation Warp Speed official, an approved COVID-19 vaccine will be distributed across US states and territories based on population (CNN). 

The retail drug chain Walgreens says that it’s “rapidly expanding” its ultra-cold storage capabilities to accommodate a potential Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. However, State health officials report that they have not heard many details from the federal government about how the vaccine distribution will be organized, and have not received the required funding to get the infrastructure in place. The lack of information regarding vaccine distribution on a federal level may have to do with Pfizer reportedly saying that it will distribute its vaccine outside the federal framework. 

ARTICLE: EVAN STOGSDILL

POLITICS EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE

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