By Robin Foster and E.J. Mundell
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 than 200,000 of those deaths, or one in every five, according to a running tally comprised by Johns Hopkins University.
“It’s not just a number. It’s human beings. It’s people we love,” Dr. Howard Markel, a professor of medical history at the University of Michigan, told the AP. He’s an adviser to government officials on how best to handle the pandemic — and he lost his 84-year-old mother to COVID-19 in February.
“It’s people we know,” Markel said. “And if you don’t have that human factor right in your face, it’s very easy to make it abstract.”
It’s taken the coronavirus just eight months to reach a worldwide death toll that’s meant personal and economic tragedy for billions. Right now, more than 33.6 million people worldwide are known to have been infected with the new coronavirus, the Hopkins tally found.
In the meantime, Americans struggle to stay ahead of the virus. The U.S. government announced Monday that at least 100 million rapid COVID-19 tests will be distributed to states in the coming weeks.
Who will get them first? The White House is urging governors to use the tests to help reopen schools, the AP reported.
As an example, the Abbott Labs tests would allow teachers to be tested on a weekly basis, or for parents to know whether their symptomatic child has COVID-19, the AP reported.
This batch of tests is part of a 150 million order the federal government has placed with Abbott, the wire service said. The company’s rapid test, the size of a credit card, is the first that does not require special computer equipment to process. It delivers results in about 15 minutes.
As the rapid tests are being sent out, new COVID-19 cases remain elevated averaging more than 40,000 a day — while experts warn of a likely surge in the fall and winter, the AP reported.
Only in the last two months has U.S. testing capacity begun to exceed demand, the AP reported. Adm. Brett Giroir, the nation’s testing czar, told Congress last week that the United States will soon have the capacity to run 3 million tests per day.
One-shot vaccine moves to larger trials
In news that might help make vaccinating all Americans against COVID-19 easier to accomplish, the first coronavirus vaccine that only requires a single shot has entered the final stages of testing in the United States, the Washington Post reported.
The international trial will eventually recruit up to 60,000 participants. The vaccine, made by Johnson & Johnson, is the fourth to enter the large, Phase 3 trials that determine effectiveness and safety, the Post reported.
Paul Stoffels, the company’s chief scientific officer, predicted last week there may be enough data to have results by the end of the year and the company plans to manufacture 1 billion doses next year.
Three other vaccine candidates have a head start, with U.S. trials that began earlier this summer, but the vaccine being developed by Johnson & Johnson could be easier to administer and distribute if it’s proven safe and effective, the Post reported.
The company is initially testing a single dose, while the other vaccines require a second shot three to four weeks after the first one, the newspaper said. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine can also be stored in liquid form at refrigerator temperatures for three months, whereas two of the three other vaccines must be frozen or kept at ultra-cold temperatures for long-term storage, the Post reported.
“A single-shot vaccine, if it’s safe and effective, will have substantial logistic advantages for global pandemic control,” said Dan Barouch, director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, who partnered with Johnson & Johnson to develop the vaccine.
“It is a really good thing that we have this diversity of platforms because this is a critical crisis in terms of our global circumstance,” said Dr. Francis Collins, director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health. “Now, here in the U.S. with 200,000 deaths, we want to do everything we can without sacrificing safety or efficacy.”
By Thursday, the U.S. coronavirus case count passed 7.2 million while the death toll neared 207,000, according to a New York Times tally.
According to the same tally, the top five states in coronavirus cases as of Thursday were: California with over 821,00; Texas with more than 784,000; Florida with more than 706,500; New York with over 463,000; and Georgia with over 301,000.
Curbing the spread of the coronavirus in the rest of the world remains challenging.
By Thursday, India’s coronavirus case count had passed 6.3 million, just over one month after hitting the 3 million mark, the Times reported.
By Thursday almost 99,000 coronavirus patients have died in India, according to the Hopkins tally, but when measured as a proportion of the population, the country has had far fewer deaths than many others. Doctors say this reflects India’s younger and leaner population.
Still, the country’s public health system is severely strained, and some sick patients cannot find hospital beds, the newspaper said. Only the United States has more coronavirus cases.
Meanwhile, Brazil passed 4.8 million cases and nearly 144,000 deaths as of Thursday, the Hopkins tally showed.
Cases are also spiking in Russia: The country’s coronavirus case count has passed 1.1 million. As of Thursday, the reported death toll in Russia neared 21,000, the Hopkins tally showed.
Worldwide, the number of reported infections passed 34 million on Thursday, with over 1 million deaths, according to the Hopkins tally.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on the new coronavirus.
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