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Midwest Latest Region to be Hit Hard by COVID Spread | Health News

By Robin Foster and E.J. Mundell
HealthDay Reporters

(HealthDay)

THURSDAY, Oct. 1, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Coronavirus infections are surging in the American heartland, with Wisconsin bearing the brunt of COVID-19’s relentless spread.

Many Midwestern states are seeing some of the nation’s highest per capita rates of infection, and while federal health officials have again urged some governors in the region to require masks statewide, some Republican governors have resisted, the Associated Press reported.

Wisconsin appeared to be in the worst shape: A record number of people with COVID-19 were hospitalized in that state as of Wednesday. Of 737 patients, 205 were in intensive care, with spikes in cases in northern parts of the state driving up the numbers, the AP reported. Wisconsin health officials reported 2,319 new infections, bringing the total number to 122,274.

The state also reported its highest single-day number of deaths — 27 — pushing the overall death toll to 1,327.

“Over the course of the past two to three weeks we have noticed a marked rise in COVID patients coming into our hospitals in Green Bay,” said Dr. Paul Casey, medical director of the emergency department at Bellin Hospital in Wisconsin, told CNN. “And this comes in the wake of what we thought we were doing well.”

“For the first time in 17 years that I’ve been here, we’ve had to put patients in hallway beds,” Casey told CNN. “I never envisioned having to do that in a small community like Green Bay, but we’ve done it not twice, but three times, in the last 10 days.”

In North Dakota, hospitals are adding extra space amid worries about capacity, the AP reported. Nearly 678 COVID-19 infections per 100,000 people have been diagnosed over the past two weeks, leading the country for new cases per capita, according to the COVID Tracking Project. Overall, there have been 21,846 infections and 247 deaths.

The surge has been seen throughout the Midwest. Iowa also reported a spike in people hospitalized with the virus, to 390, the AP reported. Last week, the state had the nation’s sixth-highest rate of coronavirus infections per 100,000 people, according to a recent White House coronavirus task force report. It again recommended Iowa require masks statewide, which Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds has said is unnecessary.

Similarly, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, a Republican, has said he won’t impose such a requirement. The task force report found his state is among the worst in the United States for positive coronavirus tests per 100,000 people, up 15% from a week ago.

The Midwest has now overtaken the South for the country’s highest seven-day average of new daily cases per 1 million residents, CNN reported. The Midwest averaged 156 cases per 1 million people, against 124 in the South, 88 in the West and 51 in the Northeast, Johns Hopkins data shows.

Globally, COVID death toll passes 1 million

The global coronavirus pandemic reached a grim new milestone this week: One million dead.

Americans made up more

Elderly hit so hard by COVID-19 because of lower levels of certain immune cells

Elderly people who get COVID-19 have lower levels of important immune cells, which may explain why they are more likely than younger patients to have severe symptoms or die, new research suggests.

For the study, the researchers analyzed blood samples from 30 people with mild COVID-19, ranging in age from the mid-20s to late-90s. Compared with healthy people, all of the COVID-19 patients had lower numbers of T cells — which target virus-infected cells — in their blood.

But COVID-19 patients over 80 years of age had fewer T cells than those who were younger, and so-called “killer” T cells in older patients produced lower amounts of cytotoxic molecules that find and kill infected cells, the investigators found.

This age-related difference in immune response may partially explain why older COVID-19 patients have more severe illness, according to the authors of the study published this month in the journal mBio.

“Elderly people have more severe diseases compared to young people, and we found that the cytotoxic part of immune control is not as efficient to respond to the virus in older people,” said study leader Gennadiy Zelinskyy, a virologist at University Hospital Essen, in Germany.

The lower levels of T cells in COVID-19 patients is among the many unwelcome surprises of the pandemic, he noted in a news release from the American Society for Microbiology.

Once inside the body, most viruses trigger a boost in T cells, including cytotoxic-producing killer T cells that play a critical role in destroying virus-infected cells. If a person’s immune system produces fewer of these T cells, it has greater difficulty combating a viral infection.

The findings suggest that cytotoxic T cells play a key role in control of early infections, but Zelinskyy said it’s too soon to know if these cells can be used to create an immunotherapy against the new coronavirus.

More study is needed to understand the potential risks and benefits of interfering with T cells as a way to control the new coronavirus and other viruses, he concluded.

More information
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on COVID-19.

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