Written by Susan Heavey and Nick Brown
(Reuters) – U.S. surgeon General Jerome Adams on Tuesday asked Americans to recognize the “severity of the moment” and remain vigilant against the coronavirus epidemic as record hospital care pushed health professionals to the brink.
“We’re almost vaccinated. … There are new drugs out there. We just need the American people to keep themselves a little longer,” Adams, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, told Fox in an interview.
He called on people to change their plans ahead of Thursday’s Thanksgiving, which has led to the busiest air travel in the U.S. since the early days of the March pandemic, and millions of people have flown despite the dangers of a crowded airport. U.S. health officials last week strongly recommended that Americans avoid the trip for the holiday.
Global pharmaceutical companies have reported promising test results in developing vaccines that can be given to high-priority patients in December. Meanwhile, the U.S. government will begin distributing the newly authorized COVID-19 antibody combination therapy from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. on Tuesday.
But hospitals need to provide help immediately.
The U.S. surpassed 85,000 hospital passes due to COVID-19 on Wednesday, a record as 30 of the 50 states reported a record number of patients this month.
This has taxed already exhausted health care providers as more than 1,500 coronavirus deaths and 171,000 new cases accumulate every day.
After pounding major American cities in the spring, COVID-19 has now engulfed rural and small-town America. According to the COVID Tracking Project, the number of cases in the 12 Midwestern states is more than twice that of the other regions, more than 20 times from mid-June to mid-November.
Providers say many midwestern hospitals are severely short of beds, equipment and clinical staff. Some redesign areas to accommodate COVID-19 patients, or condense more patients in one room and ask staff to work longer hours and more frequent shifts.
“There’s a connection in the community where we see people in bars and restaurants or plan Thanksgiving dinners,” said Dr. Kelly Cawcutt, a doctor of infectious diseases at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. As a health worker, he said, “we feel a little desperate.”
According to official Reuters data, there were record numbers of hospital patients in thirty states in November, including all 12 Midwestern states. Michigan reported more than 4,000 hospital admissions on Monday, surpassing its previous April 13 record.
“A quarter of all our coronavirus cases have occurred in the past month. … These cases are becoming hospitalized and mortal,” Adams warned, saying heart disease, pregnant women and others can be rejected.
– This is the reality.
(Report by Susan Heavey, Nick Brown and Lisa Shumaker; by Daniel Trotta; edited by Jonathan Oatis)