No matter where you are in the US, coronavirus isn’t far away.
At least 45 states have reported more new infections this past week compared to the previous week, according to Johns Hopkins University.
“We have this firestorm of coronavirus all across the country,” emergency medicine physician Dr. Leana Wen said. “It’s not one or two hotspots, the entire country is a hotspot of coronavirus infection.”
More than 10.9 million people in the US have been infected with coronavirus, and more than 245,000 people have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins. At least 1,266 new deaths were reported on Saturday alone.
And while some officials toughen their restrictions, some say changing behavior is more important than shutting down.
‘Don’t do stupid things’
If everyone took precautions and stopped assuming their friends aren’t infected, the results could be more effective than a lockdown, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said.
“The good thing about where we are now is we’re smarter than we were in March. We understand that this blanket kind of lockdown, which did the trick then, may not be the best way now,” he said.
“It’s not about whether a store is open or not. It’s about your and my behavior. It’s about whether we think, ‘Oh, I know that person, so I’m familiar with them. I can hang out with them … Those things are what’s causing the spread.”
So if people don’t like shutdowns, the solutions are simple: “Cancel those vacation plans right now. Do not sneak in other households for Thanksgiving,” Garcetti said.
“To me, the mantra is two things: Don’t share your air, and don’t do stupid things.”
More states are setting new rules
With the rapid acceleration of new infections, many states are scrambling to curb the virus with new restrictions. Among them:
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— Utah now has a statewide mask mandate
— Ohio is enacting stricter mask mandates for businesses
— New Mexico is banning in-person services for nonessential businesses
— Maryland is scaling back indoor restaurant dining capacity from 75% to 50%
— New York says most bars and restaurants must close by 10 p.m.
— Oregon is closing indoor restaurant dining and limiting social gatherings to no more than six people.
The Navajo Nation will also implement stricter measures starting Monday, including virtual learning for students and the closure of non-essential government services.
“We are inching closer and closer to a major public health crisis in which we could potentially see our hospitals filling up with patients,” Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said. “Our health care system on the Navajo Nation cannot sustain a long-term surge in COVID-19 cases.”
Hospitals are on brink
Remember those grim scenes from the spring and summer surge, when hospitals were overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients?
The US set a new record-high number of patients hospitalized with Covid-19 on Saturday — 69,455, according to the Covid Tracking Project.
That’s well beyond the spring peak of 59,940, on April 15, and the summer peak of 59,718 on July 23.
In some hospitals, the staffing is so dire that asymptomatic doctors and nurses infected with coronavirus are allowed to keep working in Covid-19 units.
“You can make more ICU beds, but what you can’t make are more ICU nurses,” said Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a professor of medicine at George Washington University.
The flu season collides with the pandemic
Hospitals aren’t just grappling with coronavirus. They’re also dealing with the flu, which caused an estimated 400,000 hospitalizations and 22,000 deaths in the US during the last flu season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Both flu and coronavirus can cause many of the same symptoms, US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams said.
But “the one symptom that I would alert people to that really differentiates flu from Covid is loss of taste or smell,” Adams said on NPR’s “All Things Considered.”
“If you get that symptom, then you need to be reaching out to your health provider right away and going in and getting a Covid test.”
Adams encouraged the public to get a flu shot this year and warned not to self-diagnose. A health care provider can give better answers so patients can respond appropriately to their symptoms.
“Covid seems to spread much more easily than the flu, and it causes much more serious illnesses in some people,” he said.