As political attention remains focused on the election and President Trump’s attempts to undermine its outcome, the pandemic continues to spread unchecked throughout many American states. On Tuesday, the nation reached two terrible milestones, clocking 1 million new COVID-19 cases in the first ten days of November and reaching an all-time high of hospitalizations. There are now 61,964 people hospitalized with the coronavirus in America, breaching a peak previously set on April 15.
As cases continue to rise dramatically, with over 100,000 infections recorded every day for the past seven days, hospitalizations have followed in tow: There are over 40 percent more COVID hospitalizations this week than there were just two weeks ago. Unlike the peak of hospitalizations in April — when doctors and health-care providers traveled to New York to deal with the terrible regional outbreak — the current surge is spread out across many regions of the West, meaning that access to care cannot be rapidly expanded to meet the tremendous rise in cases. “Everywhere is either hard hit or is watching their COVID numbers go up, and are expecting to get a lot of flu patients,” Nancy Foster, a vice-president of the American Hospital Association, told the New York Times. “The ability of health-care professionals to pick up and leave their hometowns is very limited.”
In North Dakota, which currently has the worst per-capita death rate in the country, Governor Doug Burgum announced on Monday that health-care workers who have tested positive but remain asymptomatic could continue to treat COVID patients, as a measure to keep significantly strained hospital systems in operation. (South Dakota isn’t faring too much better, with the nation’s highest positive-testing rate at 54 percent.) And as The Atlantic notes, “hospitals are already on the brink of being overwhelmed in Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin, and officials in many other states warn that their health-care systems will be dangerously stressed if cases continue to rise.” Though deaths remain low — at the still-tragic rate of over 1,000 deaths per day for five straight days last week — compared to the spring hospitalization record, when 2,371 Americans died on April 15, deaths have lagged three weeks behind hospitalizations throughout the pandemic.
With the 10 millionth COVID case in America recorded on Sunday, it’s been a bleak — if extremely overlooked — week of the pandemic in the United States. But not all the news has been dark: On Monday, Pfizer announced that its two-dose vaccine may be 90 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 in volunteers who have not previously contracted the virus.