Several states seeing surges in COVID-19 cases are dealing with such an influx of sick residents that hospital beds are drying up. New Mexico’s top health officials have had to establish a waiting list for intensive care unit beds for the first time ever, and they’re warning that the state is about a week away from having to ration medical care as coronavirus infections climb and nurses are in short supply.
Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. David Scrase said a 20% increase in COVID patients in just the last day. New Mexico is on pace to surpass its worst-case projections for cases and hospitalizations. Data shows 90% of the cases since February have been among the unvaccinated.
He said the result may be that “we’re going to have to choose who gets the care and who doesn’t get care, and we don’t want to get to that point.” The number of cases in Ohio is also causing some hospitals to plan for possibly halting elective procedures that require an overnight stay because of rising COVID-19 hospitalizations.
“Due to the fluid nature of this fourth surge, we will continually monitor capacity and pause or resume elective surgeries with an overnight stay as needed,” read a statement from OhioHealth, which operates 12 hospitals across the state.
Three OhioHealth hospitals’ intensive care units were above 90% capacity as of the week of Aug. 13, the most recent date for which capacity data was available from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. One was 99% full, the data shows.
Also in the news:
►The Tennessee state health commissioner says children now account for more than a third of the state’s COVID-19 cases; there was a 57% increase the past week compared with the week prior.
►About 89% of federal rental assistance approved by Congress remains unspent even as a potential eviction crisis looms.
►Massachusetts issued a mask mandate for K-12 students statewide, requiring students over the age of 5 to wear face coverings indoors until October.
►Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds is facing two lawsuits over pandemic-related policies. One suit targets her decision to end a set of federal unemployment benefits early, and the other concerns the state’s ban on mask mandates in schools.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 38 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 632,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 214 million cases and 4.4 million deaths. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 171 million Americans – 51.7% of the population – have been fully vaccinated.
📘What we’re reading: Labor Day is approaching. Here’s what you should know if you’re planning a getaway amid COVID-19 and the delta surge. Read more here.
The Black community has been especially hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, but many remain reluctant to be vaccinated. Why? And what can be done? Join us on Twitter Spaces at 7 p.m. ET Thursday, Aug. 26, as we talk with Black doctors and medical experts about what they see on the front lines, vaccine hesitancy, COVID-19 myths, and answer your questions.
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A study from Israel found that the risks associated with a heart inflammation condition are far more significant for those contract who COVID-19 than those who get vaccinated. Myocarditis has in rare cases been linked to COVID-19 vaccination, primarily in young men and male teens, but the study found COVID-19 was more likely to cause the condition and many other side effects.
The study is the first to assess the potential risks of vaccination “in the context of understanding the potential benefits of vaccination,” said Dr. Grace Lee, an infectious disease expert at Stanford University.
“If the reason that someone so far has been hesitating to get the vaccine is fear of this infrequent and usually not very serious adverse event called myocarditis, well, this study shows that that very same adverse event is actually associated with a higher risk if you’re not vaccinated, and you get infected,” study co-author Ben Reis told the New York Times.
After a year of virtual school, students and parents alike were excited to return to in-person learning. But just as quickly as the new school year started, many children were sent back home after a slew of COVID-19 outbreaks forced them into quarantine.
In Florida, school districts around the state, including in Jacksonville’s Duval County, are closing schools as cases arise. According to district data, New Orleans School District saw 299 active COVID-19 points and more than 3,000 students and staff in quarantine. A Mississippi public health official said about 20,000 students across the state are in quarantine.
School outbreaks caused by high community transmission and lack of mitigation measures have disrupted academic plans, health experts say, and maybe contributing to a spike in COVID-19 cases among children across the country. They worry instances will continue to rise if schools don’t implement masking and other basic prevention measures, and adults in the community remain unvaccinated.
“As you look at the age-specific cases over the past couple of weeks, the reason why we’re seeing a pronounced difference between school-age children and everybody else is primarily that they’re back in schools full time,” said Jason Salemi, associate professor of epidemiology at the University of South Florida College of Public Health.
– Adrianna Rodriguez
On her first day in office, she acknowledged nearly 12,000 more deaths in the state from COVID-19 than had been publicized by her predecessor, Andrew Cuomo.
New York now reports nearly 55,400 people have died of COVID-19 in New York based on death certificate data submitted to the CDC, up from about 43,400 that Cuomo had written to the public as of Monday, his last day in office.
“We’re now releasing more data than had been released before publicly, so people know the nursing home deaths and the hospital deaths are consistent with what’s being displayed by the CDC,” Hochul said Wednesday on MSNBC. “There’s a lot of things that weren’t happening, and I’m going to make them happen. Transparency will be the hallmark of my administration.”
In July, the Associated Press first reported the large discrepancy between the fatality numbers publicized by the Cuomo administration and numbers the state was saying to the CDC. Cuomo’s critics had long charged that he was manipulating coronavirus statics to burnish his image as a pandemic leader.
Federal prosecutors previously launched a probe examining his administration’s data handling around deaths among nursing home patients. The state, under Cuomo, had minimized its toll of nursing home residents’ deaths by excluding all patients who died after being transferred to hospitals.
It’s the top challenge for schools welcoming students back this fall: what to do about all the children who missed vast chunks of class time, whether in person or from home, during the pandemic.
Yet 17 months after the coronavirus first swept the nation, few of America’s most prominent districts can provide a clear picture of which students fall into that category – raising questions about whether schools are ready for the challenge of catching students up and preparing them for adulthood.
Research suggests children who are chronically absent – meaning they miss at least 10% of a given school year – are at risk of eventually dropping out.
USA TODAY reached out to a sampling of school districts, including the country’s 10 largest before the pandemic upended enrollment, requesting data on students who were chronically absent during the past three school years. Read more here. – Alia Wong