U.S. and federal officials have urged people to do more to combat the accelerated spread of the coronavirus, as record hospitalizations threatened to put unprecedented strain on healthcare systems across the country.
Local authorities in the California Bay Area, where San Francisco and Silicon Valley are located, issued a “stay at home” order on Friday as the spread of the pandemic stoked fears of a decrease in the capacity of intensive care units.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom warned Thursday that his state would order a three-week shutdown of all but the most essential businesses and services in areas where hospital intensive care capacity is less than 15%.
He said he expected the Bay Area to reach that level later this month, but officials in the region passed the restrictions before the threshold was reached, to avoid a potential crisis.
“We know that if we wait, we are only delaying the inevitable,” said San Francisco Mayor London Breed.
Los Angeles, the largest city in the state, has already issued a “safer at home” order for its nearly 4 million residents. California reported another record one-day increase of 22,018 cases on Friday, as hospitalizations climbed to a record 9,948. The availability of intensive care unit beds in the state has fallen to a low record 1,673.
For the first time in the pandemic, the seven most populous US states – New York, Texas, Florida, Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania, as well as California – reported more than 10,000 cases each on Friday.
Those states accounted for about 40% of the 224,831 record cases reported by states on Friday, according to data from the Covid Tracking Project. 2,563 other people have died, among the biggest one-day toll of the pandemic, while a record 101,276 people were in hospitals with coronavirus.
Bob Wachter, director of the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, said it was the “worst flare of all” and that there was little “resilience” in the system because the disease was developing. spreads everywhere at once.
“Things are going off the rails all over the country,” he said.
Dr Wachter backed the decision to lock down the Bay Area, saying the region’s more cautious approach to the pandemic so far has helped save lives.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf on Friday expressed concern about the pressure the record number of infections will place on hospitals in his state.
“With the increase in Covid cases, Pennsylvania is expected to run out of intensive care beds by mid-December,” he wrote on Twitter, just before the state revealed record daily infections of 11,763 .
“The best thing we can do is protect ourselves and others from this virus,” Wolf added. “Stay at home as much as possible, wear masks, avoid gatherings, and practice good health habits.”
Data from the state’s health department showed there are currently 5,230 people in hospitals in Pennsylvania with coronavirus. The number of Covid-19 patients in ICUs was 1,065.
Desperate to avoid a repeat of the New York crisis in the spring, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said earlier this week that parts of the state could be forced to undergo a “break” similar to a previous lockdown in the event of a “hospitalization crisis”.
The number of hospitalizations in the state has reached 4,222 – below the peak of the initial days of the pandemic, but well above the low levels the state experienced after successfully containing the virus this summer.
“We will have limited ability to bring resources from the north to the north of the state like in the spring, or from the north to the north of the state because literally every region is facing an increase now,” Cuomo warned. The state reported 11,271 new cases on Friday – slightly less than its record in mid-April.
Some places have set up field hospitals to help manage any patient overflow, including in the Staten Island borough in New York; Worcester, Massachusetts; and Rhode Island, the small northeastern state that sent residents an emergency alert this week warning that its hospitals were at full capacity.
U.S. health officials fear the coming months will be the most difficult so far in the pandemic due to increased travel and social gatherings during the holiday season, among other factors.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged Americans to forgo Christmas travel and stay home to celebrate and released their first-ever recommendation on Friday that all people should wear face masks indoors when they are not. not at home, citing “high levels” of transmission.
Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, said the crisis has brought health workers “to their knees”.
He said there should be home care orders in areas where there is “hyper spread” and where there is little or no hospital or intensive care capacity, and called for a mask warrant. universal applied.
“We need to aggressively stop the spread now,” he said.
Joe Biden, the US president-elect, has said he will call on people to wear masks for the first 100 days after taking office in January. In contrast, Donald Trump has said little about the pandemic since the loss of the election last month, even though the number of cases has accelerated.
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