New cases hit three-month high as Covid-19 hospitalizations soar

Virus Outbreak Close Contact
Posted at 7:45 AM, Oct 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-23 09:49:54-04

Thursday was the first day with more than 70,000 new US Covid-19 cases in three months, and the hospitalization rate is soaring, new data reveal.

Thirty-two states reported rising Covid-19 infections, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Thursday was the highest day for new infections since July 24 and the day with the fourth highest total ever, at 71,671, Johns Hopkins says.

More than 41,000 people were hospitalized across the country, according to the Covid Tracking Project. This is the highest level of nationwide hospitalizations since Aug 20.

The number of people hospitalized has increased by 33% since the beginning of October, the CTP says.

Deaths are also creeping upward, with 856 on Thursday, Johns Hopkins says. The 7-day average of deaths continues to climb and is up to 763. That is the highest level of average weekly deaths in a month.

An updated model from the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation projects more than 140,000 Americans will likely die from the virus in the next three months.

In White House coronavirus task force reports obtained by CNN this week, officials say there are "early signs of deterioration in the Sun Belt and continued deterioration in the Midwest and across the Northern States." More state leaders have sounded the alarm on increasing infections, hospitalizations and deaths.

States will likely 'reimpose some social distancing mandates'

The institute says the "fall/winter surge has begun" -- just a couple weeks behind Europe -- and will intensify in November and December before reaching a peak in January.

"Many states will face enormous pressure on hospital capacity and will likely have to re-impose some social distancing mandates," IHME said. "The best strategy to delay re-imposition of mandates and the associated economic hardship is to expand mask use."

Oregon is the only state trending in the right direction, according to Johns Hopkins data, which also show:

  • At least eight states reported record-high hospitalizations Thursday: Kentucky, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio ,Oklahoma, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
  • At least 12 states saw their highest seven-day averages of new daily cases: Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming.
  • And at least six states -- Colorado, Indiana, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma and Utah -- reported their highest daily case counts.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced regional restrictions. New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said anyone not wearing a mask could get a $500 ticket.

"There are already laws on the books," she said. "It's just a matter of taking that step to enforce, based on our police officers' discretion."

Utah announced additional efforts for more than 20 counties at high transmission risks. Those efforts include limiting casual social gatherings to 10 people.

Small gatherings, house parties helping drive the surge

In its state reports, the White House task force recommended "strong mitigation efforts," including "mask wearing, physical distancing, hand hygiene, avoiding crowds in public and social gatherings in private."

That comes just days after the group expressed concerns about small household gatherings helping drive the surge of cases.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said Thursday family gatherings are the top source of transmission in his state.

"Our contact tracing operation continues to show social gatherings remain the most likely source of transmissions," the governor said. "The number one activity of those who have tested positive continues to be family gatherings, followed by house parties."

Experts fear the holidays might raise infections. Doctors worry that college students returning home could bring the virus, with large family gatherings for Thanksgiving and other events adding to the spread. Infectious disease experts say virtual celebrations might be best this year.

Remdesivir gets FDA approval

Meanwhile, the US Food and Drug Administration approved remdesivir for the treatment of Covid-19 infection, the drug's maker, Gilead Sciences, announced Thursday.

The drug, sold under the brand name Veklury, has been used under emergency use authorization since May. It's the first drug to be approved for treating Covid-19.

"In the United States, Veklury is indicated for adults and pediatric patients (12 years of age and older and weighing at least 40 kg) for the treatment of COVID-19 requiring hospitalization," the company said in a statement.

"Veklury should only be administered in a hospital or in a healthcare setting capable of providing acute care comparable to inpatient hospital care."

But earlier this month, World Health Organization officials said that a study had shown the antiviral drug has "little or no effect on mortality" for patients hospitalized with the virus and doesn't seem to help patients recover faster either. The WHO said the study provided "conclusive evidence" and the findings were disappointing.