While the U.S. was laser-focused on the presidential election over the last week, the country averaged more than 115,000 new coronavirus cases per day.
According to the New York Times Coronavirus Tracker, over the past seven days there has been an average of 116,448 new coronavirus cases per day, a 64% increase from the average two weeks earlier. Additionally, more than 10.1 million people in the U.S. have been infected with the coronavirus since early March and at least 238,700 have died.
MarketWatch also reported hospitals in Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Iowa are running out of room and health experts are getting concerned state health systems will be overwhelmed as the year ends and 2021 begins.
“This is what exponential math looks like,” Malia Jones, a social epidemiologist with the University of Wisconsin told MarketWatch. “Everything seems fine until quite suddenly it seems completely out of control. We’ve been seeing the slow build to this for a month, and we have also seen little or no action to put the brakes on it. This is a predictable outcome, unfortunately.
“And we will keep on posting record numbers of cases day after day unless something changes,” Jones added.
Wisconsin’s health department announced Monday afternoon, that its hospitals are currently at 88% capacity–with a wave of new admissions arriving in the coming days as cases continue to rise. Rural states, which largely avoided the first wave of coronavirus, are now feeling the brunt of a second, harsher wave coinciding with weather change as the U.S. heads into winter.
In El Paso, Texas, health officials have brought in 10 morgue trucks to deal with the spike in coronavirus cases, while at the same time businesses in the county have said they will not close. In Ohio, Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, the incoming chief medical officer for the state’s health department said every county in the state is feeling the spike in cases.
“Every county in the state is feeling the brunt of rising COVID-19 hospitalizations,” Vanderhoff told CNN. “If we don’t control the spread of the virus and our case numbers, we won’t be able to continue caring for the acutely ill without postponing important, but less urgent care.”
Rural states are particularly vulnerable as they tend to have fewer hospitals with less space, are farther away than hospitals in metropolitan areas and residents typically have worse or less health insurance.
However, according to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, a vaccine should be widely available for the most vulnerable Americans by the end of the year. According to CNN, Azar’s comments came a day after Pfizer announced its coronavirus vaccine, which is still in testing, appears to be more than 90% effective. Azar also added Moderna is also producing its vaccine candidate.
“We have anticipated that we will have enough vaccine by the end of December to have vaccinated our most vulnerable citizens and nursing homes and otherwise; and by the end of January enough for all health care workers and first responders; and enough for all Americans by the end of March to early April to have general vaccination programs,” Azar told The Today Show, according to CNN.
However, getting the vaccine out may also prove difficult because Dr. John Burkhardt, Pfizer’s vice president of Global Drug Safety Research and Development said the shot needs to be stored in extremely low temperatures, far below the capacity of standard freezers.