The US hit a record 7-day average of new Covid-19 cases as hospitals are further strained

During a CNN town hall with Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Dr. Anthony Fauci answers a viewer's question about the time it takes to develop an immune response to the vaccine and whether you can get the virus between doses.

Posted: Dec 6, 2020 6:01 PM
Updated: Dec 6, 2020 6:01 PM

Hospitals across the United States are being put under immense pressure as the nation continues to hit record levels of new Covid-19 cases, adding more than 1 million new cases in the first five days of December.

"We're seeing day-by-day increasing numbers of patients with Covid-19, both those who are a little bit sick and those who are really sick," said Dr. Megan Ranney, a CNN medical analyst and director of the Brown-Lifespan Center for Digital Health at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.

"As that happens, our hospitals are filling up, and our workers are getting sick. Our floors are short on techs, on respiratory therapists, on nurses," said Ranney, adding, "We are on the verge of being in a crisis state."

Rhode Island's not alone. More than 101,200 Covid-19 patients were in US hospitals on Friday — a record high, according to the Covid Tracking Project. Hospital systems — and health care workers — are approaching their breaking points.

"Everywhere we're seeing a surge," said Dr. Carlos del Rio, an infectious disease physician and executive associate dean of Emory University School of Medicine. "And the biggest problem when you have a surge is, it's not the space, it's not the stuff, it's actually the staff. Staff are tired, sick and I'm worried we're running out of staff to take care of patients."

Experts fear a potential surge of infections linked to Thanksgiving gatherings that will further stress hospitals and frontline health workers.

Dr. Shirlee Xie, a hospitalist and associate director of hospital medicine for Hennepin Healthcare in Minneapolis, said health care workers are "suffocating" in their patients' fear and in their colleagues' exhaustion.

"Every single day, thousands more people are getting this virus, and we know that means that in a few days, in a week, hundreds of people are going to be coming to the hospital and hundreds of people are going to die," she told CNN's Ana Cabrera, her voice breaking with emotion.

"I think that sometimes when you hear statistics like that, you become numb to what those numbers mean," Xie said. "But for us, the people that are taking care of these patients, every single number is somebody that we have to look at and say, 'I'm sorry, there's nothing more I can do for you.'"

More than 100,000 Covid-19 patients have been hospitalized nationwide for the past four days, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

Unlike the spring, a couple of weeks from now, "It won't just be a couple of hospitals or a couple of regions or states where they're running out of ICU beds, which is happening, but it will finally be the whole country," Dr. Jeremy Faust, an emergency physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, told CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

"Once we run out of hospital beds, we are going to face something the likes of which we have never seen before," he said.

As of Friday the US averaged 182,633 daily new cases over the last week, a record high for the country, according to Johns Hopkins University data. And the average number of daily Covid-19 deaths across a week hit 2,010 on Friday, the highest it has been since April.

The US recorded 227,885 cases on Friday alone, the highest one-day count of the pandemic.

There is good news: US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) vaccine advisers are scheduled to meet to discuss Pfizer's and Moderna's applications for emergency use authorization (EUA) of their Covid-19 vaccines, which some state leaders say they're expecting to get the first doses of in the coming weeks.

But health officials warn that while some Americans may receive a vaccine by the end of the year, the country likely won't see any meaningful impacts until late spring.

In the meantime, experts project an incredibly challenging next few months.

Millions of Californians face stay-at-home orders

More than 278,800 people have lost their lives to the virus in the US since the pandemic began. More than 10,000 of those were recorded in the four days since the beginning of December, with more than 2,500 daily deaths reported across the US each day.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Friday called the accelerating pandemic "the greatest threat to life in Los Angeles that we have ever faced." Hospitalizations in Los Angeles County have tripled in the last week, he said, and the county will likely run out of beds in two to four weeks if cases continue climbing.

In hopes of stemming the tide, large areas of California have announced new stay-at-home orders, affecting tens of millions of Californians.

The orders came after Gov. Gavin Newsom had announced a stay-at-home order for regions where the capacity of hospital intensive care units drops below 15%.

Officials in the San Francisco Bay Area issued a stay-at-home order Friday, restricting the activities of more than 5.8 million people. The order affects the counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Santa Clara, San Francisco and the city of Berkeley.

While the Bay Area has not met that threshold, officials warned they're seeing evidence of transmission over Thanksgiving weekend that could fuel a surge in their community.

"I don't think we can wait for the state's new restrictions to go into effect later this month," Contra Costa Health Director Chris Farnitano said Friday. "We must act swiftly to save as many lives as we can. This is an emergency."

By Saturday, officials in the San Joaquin Valley region — made up of a dozen counties home to more than 4 million people in central California — announced stay-at-home orders that will go into effect Sunday evening after the region's ICU capacity dipped below 15%. The state's Department of Public Health confirmed a similar order would take effect at the same time in Southern California, where ICU availability fell to 12.5% on Saturday.

There are 11 counties in the Southern California region, including five of the state's most populated counties — Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino. Roughly 23 million people live in the region.

"It really is time for us to pull back on the activity and see if we can turn this thing around before hospitals get overwhelmed," said Dr. Robert Wachter, chairman of the department of medicine at University of California, San Francisco, pointing out California has had a "better than average performance" throughout the pandemic.

"I see other parts of the country that are still open, even though the case rates and hospitalization rates are far worse than here," he told CNN. "So I think we're acting correctly."

On Saturday, the state reported a record high of 25,068 new cases. The state's other two regions, Northern California and the Greater Sacramento Region, both had ICU capacities above 20%.

Here's when most Americans will begin getting vaccinated

Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN Friday night that healthy, non-elderly Americans with no known underlying health conditions will likely start getting vaccinated in late March to early April.

"The quicker you get the overwhelming majority of the country vaccinated, the quicker you're going to have that umbrella of herd immunity -- which would be so, so important in bringing the level of that virus way, way down to below the threatening level," Fauci said.

Earlier this week, vaccine advisers to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted 13-1 to recommend that both health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities be first in line for any vaccines that get the green light from the FDA.

Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health at the US Department of Health and Human Services, said Friday the FDA will consider emergency use authorization of the Pfizer vaccine after the meeting of its outside advisory committee on December 10, with consideration of the Moderna vaccine not far behind.

According to Giroir, at least 20 million Americans are expected to be able to get the Covid-19 vaccine by the end of the month.

However, a CNN analysis of state plans shows all will fall short of what they need to fully vaccinate health care workers and long term care residents. Nationwide, those groups included in the first batch of Americans add up to about 24 million people.

"It's going to be very challenging. Distribution is going to be crucial," former FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg told CNN Saturday, adding, that it will fall to the states to set priorities for who should get vaccinated first.

On top of that, the first vaccines require two doses, so officials will also need to keep track of how many doses each individual has received.

"This is going to be almost as hard as making the vaccine itself," Hamburg said.

But the start of vaccinations won't mean an end to Covid-19, and leading public health officials are warning that masks will continue to play a crucial role in helping curb the spread of the virus.

In an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper this week, President-elect Joe Biden said that on his first day in office he'd ask all Americans to wear masks in public for 100 days to combat the spread of the virus.

"Just 100 days to mask, not forever. One hundred days. And I think we'll see a significant reduction," Biden said.

The message was put perhaps most succinctly by the CDC in a tweet Saturday afternoon that read, "JUST WEAR THE MASK."

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Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Cases: 1387217

Reported Deaths: 25469
CountyCasesDeaths
Cook55573410419
DuPage922971318
Will768611027
Lake682821009
Kane59372803
Winnebago34040500
Madison30888526
McHenry29160293
St. Clair28257519
Peoria23437339
Champaign21077153
Sangamon19066237
McLean18540187
Tazewell17207302
Rock Island15238328
Kankakee14529216
Kendall1327098
LaSalle12763249
Macon10980211
DeKalb10099121
Vermilion9988140
Adams8654126
Williamson7566134
Whiteside7195174
Boone682976
Ogle620483
Grundy598278
Clinton578791
Coles5759100
Knox5636152
Jackson509865
Henry507270
Livingston489591
Stephenson481385
Woodford481382
Macoupin478088
Effingham476372
Franklin454478
Marion4509117
Jefferson4417122
Monroe438094
Lee419453
Randolph416087
Fulton405159
Logan396063
Morgan392982
Christian383675
Montgomery379074
Bureau378183
Fayette321655
Perry319860
Iroquois313167
McDonough290051
Jersey271552
Douglas260536
Saline260157
Lawrence241127
Shelby232337
Union227140
Crawford214526
Bond208824
Cass203027
Ford188248
Clark183633
Warren183648
Jo Daviess182724
Pike181753
Wayne180653
Hancock179831
Carroll178037
Richland176740
Edgar176340
White170226
Washington164725
Moultrie162728
De Witt157129
Mason154145
Piatt152214
Clay149243
Mercer149234
Johnson147316
Greene145333
Massac135840
Wabash135512
Cumberland130019
Menard124812
Jasper116118
Marshall108219
Hamilton84215
Schuyler7797
Brown7266
Pulaski6997
Stark64824
Edwards57612
Henderson53014
Calhoun5282
Scott4881
Putnam4863
Alexander47311
Gallatin4684
Hardin39112
Pope3274
Out of IL40
Unassigned02419

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Cases: 749097

Reported Deaths: 13745
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1030271775
Lake554211006
Allen41613691
St. Joseph36933564
Hamilton36505416
Elkhart29347459
Tippecanoe22849225
Vanderburgh22540400
Porter19313325
Johnson18386387
Hendricks17583317
Clark13190193
Madison13111344
Vigo12602253
LaPorte12385221
Monroe12152175
Delaware10947197
Howard10250225
Kosciusko9609119
Hancock8541144
Bartholomew8158157
Warrick7854156
Floyd7763180
Grant7227179
Wayne7154201
Boone6911103
Morgan6735141
Dubois6211118
Marshall6205116
Cass5989108
Henry5893108
Dearborn588878
Noble579786
Jackson508374
Shelby500697
Lawrence4727121
Gibson444093
Harrison440473
Clinton439855
DeKalb438585
Montgomery433890
Whitley405642
Huntington402181
Steuben398659
Miami392568
Jasper386254
Knox375690
Putnam371860
Wabash360583
Ripley346470
Adams344955
Jefferson335685
White329753
Daviess3028100
Wells294881
Decatur289992
Greene286385
Fayette284664
Posey273735
LaGrange272872
Scott269855
Clay265448
Randolph244683
Washington244534
Jennings235149
Spencer234131
Starke227558
Fountain218347
Sullivan213943
Owen210858
Fulton201542
Jay200832
Carroll193420
Orange188055
Perry186937
Rush175626
Vermillion173544
Franklin170135
Tipton165746
Parke148916
Pike137934
Blackford136032
Pulaski120047
Newton112636
Brown103943
Crawford102316
Benton100814
Martin91415
Warren83515
Switzerland8098
Union72810
Ohio57811
Unassigned0421