Growing coronavirus outbreaks across the American West and Midwest have started to take an alarming turn as some states report growing Covid-19 hospitalizations and a shrinking supply of beds for patients.
Six states reached record high Covid-19 hospitalizations, based on a weekly average to smooth out the reporting, as of Friday, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by the Covid Tracking Project, an independent volunteer organization launched by journalists at The Atlantic.
Most of the states are based in the Midwest, including Missouri, Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota.
There were at least 663 people in the hospital with Covid-19 in Wisconsin as of Friday, well beyond the state’s previous highs in April when roughly 400 people were hospitalized. Only 19% of the state’s hospital beds are available and 27% of the state’s Covid-19 patients are in the intensive-care unit, according to its data dashboard.
In Missouri, there were at least 1,137 people hospitalized with Covid-19 on Friday, the state’s highest number of patients so far, according to the Covid Tracking Project. Missouri, which tracks the weekly average of coronavirus patients, has reported a steady increase in patients and a slight decline in available intensive-care unit beds since early September.
Public health experts watch hospitalizations closely because they can indicate how severe an outbreak is in an area. It’s considered a better measure than new cases because it’s not as reliant on the availability of testing.
Nationwide, coronavirus cases were growing by 5% or more, based on a weekly average, in 27 states as of Friday, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Kentucky, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Montana reached record-high averages.
“What we’re seeing is community based transmission right now in the upper Midwest and the Northwest,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told lawmakers on Friday during a U.S. House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing.
“What we’re facing now is just plain old community spread as we saw in the Southeast and Southwest that comes from individuals not practicing the three W’s: wash your hands, watch your distance, wear your face coverings.”
Wisconsin reports ‘alarming trends’
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers on Thursday urged residents to stay at home as much as possible and to wear face coverings when in public. Evers extended Wisconsin’s mask mandate last week as he warned of an “alarming increase” in cases across the state, especially on college campuses.
“I’m concerned about the alarming trends of Covid-19 we’re seeing across our state,” Evers reiterated during a press briefing Thursday, a day after the state reported 27 new Covid-19 deaths — it’s highest daily total on record.
Wisconsin reported 2,745 new Covid-19 cases on Friday, continuing a trend of climbing infections at a level the state has yet to witness in its response to the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins data.
“For a long stretch there we were kind of smoldering along, but never really got to a point where we would say that our resources