Expert warns the US is approaching ‘one of the most unstable times in the history of our country’

Author: Madeline Holcombe / CNN
Published: Updated:
Healthcare workers move a patient in the Covid-19 Unit at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, Texas Thursday, July 2, 2020. – Despite its renowned medical center with the largest agglomeration of hospitals and research laboratories in the world, Houston is on the verge of being overwhelmed by cases of coronavirus exploding in Texas. (Photo by Mark Felix / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE TO GO WITH AFP STORY by Julia Benarrous: “Covid-19: Houston’s hospital system underwater” (Photo by MARK FELIX/AFP via Getty Images)

With rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations sending many states backward in their reopening plans, one health expert warns that if the US continues on its current path it will reach “one of the most unstable times in the history of our country.”

“We will have hospitals overwhelmed and not only in terms of ICU beds and hospitals — and that’s bad — but exhausted hospital staff and hospital staff that’s getting ill themselves,” Dr. Peter Hotez, the dean of tropical medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, told CNN Friday night. “So, we won’t have enough manpower, human power, to manage all of this.”

Only five states saw a decrease of at least 10% in average new daily cases over the past week. And the US set a record for the highest single day of new cases for the second time this week with 66,627 cases on Friday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

There have been more than 3,225,721 confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States, Johns Hopkins University said. That’s more than the population of 21 states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico, according to data from the US Census Bureau.

At least 134,580 people have died from complications of the virus.

The resurgence has many local leaders returning to actions taken in March and April to slow the spread of the virus.

At least 26 states have paused or rolled back their plans to reopen.

Atlanta’s mayor and Georgia’s governor are at odds over the mayor’s order Friday to send her city back to Phase 1 of its reopening plan. Citing an “alarming” increase in cases, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said residents under this phase should leave the house only for essential trips, and restaurants and retailers must offer only to-go or curbside pickup service.

Gov. Brian Kemp’s office said the mayor’s plan is not “legally enforceable” because Kemp signed an order prohibiting local action from being more prohibitive than the state’s requirements. To free the capacity for more testing and hospital care in a surge, Kemp reactivated a makeshift hospital Friday at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta.

In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott renewed a disaster declaration first issued March 13 to mitigate spread in his state, while Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer requested the extension of National Guard use through December for humanitarian missions such as running mobile screenings, distributing food and medical supplies and disinfecting public spaces.

“All people who study these viruses think that the summer is the quiet time. Think about that. This is the quiet time for coronavirus,” Dr. William Haseltine, a former professor at Harvard Medical School, told CNN on Friday. “If this is the quiet time, I hate to think what winter is going to be like this year.”

Disney World reopens as Florida cases and hospitalizations soar

Even as Florida flirts with records for daily cases and soaring hospitalizations, one of its biggest tourist attractions reopened Saturday.

Disney World opened its Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom Park near Orlando to the general public for the first time since shutting down over the pandemic. The reopenings come with restrictions and adjustments, including capacity limits, requiring pre-registration, and temperature screenings.

Florida recorded 11,433 new COVID-19 cases Thursday — its second-highest count for one day — the state said Friday.

And hospitalizations are rising.

A total of 7,063 people are hospitalized in Florida with COVID-19 as the primary diagnosis, the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration said Saturday. That’s an increase of 72 patients from the prior day.

In Florida’s Miami-Dade County, a county bus driver died after testing positive for COVID-19, and more than 40 others tested positive in the last three weeks, the county transportation department said.

The driver who died “was working in June before testing positive,” department spokeswoman Ileen Delgado said.

By Friday, Covid-19 hospitalizations in the county had risen by 74% since June 27. The county also has seen an 88% increase in the number of ICU beds being used and an 123% increase in the use of ventilators since then, according to Miami-Dade County government data.

In Pembroke Pines in nearby Broward County, “we are busting at the seams in the emergency room,” Leah Carpenter, a nurse and CEO of Memorial West hospital, told CNN affiliate WPLG Friday.

“My ICU is beyond capacity … But I have the ability to expand as needed,” she said.

Positive cases within the Broward Sheriff’s Office Department of Fire Rescue went from 17 on Monday to 34 by Friday, said Jason Smith, president of the International Association of Firefighters in Broward.

“We’re spreading it amongst ourselves and people are significantly sick, very sick,” Smith said in a letter to county leaders.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has said the state can handle the spikes. He told reporters Friday that no major hospital system in the state “has even gone to, like, a surge level.”

DeSantis said Saturday more than 1,000 contract workers will soon be sent around the state to boost coronavirus-related staffing, such as at new facilities that accept and treat only Covid-patients from long-term care homes, or to support testing.

A record-setting day to end a record-setting week

The US has set records for coronavirus infections and hospitalizations this summer — and this week has been no different.

Georgia set a record for the number of new cases in one day on Friday with 4,484 new cases, according to the state’s department of health. The state’s previous record was set on June 26.

Also on Friday, the US reported its highest number of new cases in one day for the second time this week. The previous record for the US was set just one day earlier.

South Carolina on Saturday reported 2,239 cases from a day earlier, breaking the previous daily high by 300 cases.

The Louisiana Department of Health reported 2,642 new cases Friday, making it the highest day of new cases since the pandemic began. On Saturday, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced a statewide mask order.

California, which has held rank as one of the hardest-hit states, continued to set records in coronavirus hospitalization and ICU rates this week, with over 6,000 patients being treated.

Wisconsin reported 926 new cases Saturday, breaking the record set the day before, the state Department of Health Services said in a tweet.

Hospitals stretched thin

Hospital capacity — a concern in many places when the pandemic first broke out — is being raised as a pressing issue once again.

An ICU nurse at Banner Health in Arizona said the staff and the three coronavirus ICUs at the hospital where she works are already stretched thin.

“Now, we’re kind of at the point where we are stretched so thin, we are at the point of compromising patient safety,” Lauren Leander told CNN on Thursday.

It’s a familiar story. In Riverside County, California, 10 out of 17 hospitals are at or above 100% capacity of licensed ICU beds, county spokesperson Brooke Federico said.

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