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Sharp Increase in Covid-19 Hospitalizations Strains U.S. Hospitals

Sharp Increase in Covid-19 Hospitalizations Strains U.S.
Hospitals 1
Credit…Joel Angel Juarez for The New York Times

Hospitals around the United States are reeling from the spread of the coronavirus, many of them in parts of the country that initially had been spared the worst.

Approaching the eve of the election, President Trump has downplayed the steep rise in cases, attributing much of it to increased testing. But the number of people hospitalized for the virus tells a different story, climbing an estimated 46 percent from a month ago and raising fears about the capacity of regional health care systems to respond to overwhelming demand.

Twenty-six states are at or near record numbers for new infections. More than 500,000 cases have been announced in the past week. No states are seeing sustained declines in case numbers.

And while the escalating case numbers had not been accompanied by a steep rise in deaths, that trend is starting to change. About 800 deaths are now being recorded across the country each day, far fewer than in the spring but up slightly from earlier this month.

In El Paso, where the number of people hospitalized with Covid-19 has more than tripled over the past three weeks, doctors at University Medical Center have started airlifting some patients to hospitals as far away as San Antonio while treating others in a field hospital in a nearby parking lot.

Dr. German Hernandez, a nephrologist who has been caring for patients at several hospitals in El Paso, said the situation was so acute that patients on oxygen were being kept in rooms in the trauma area of University Medical Center. He said that could be devastating in the event of a disaster such as the August 2019 mass shooting at a Walmart in the city that left 23 people dead.

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“God forbid we have another Aug. 3 shooting because we can’t handle it right now,” Dr. Hernandez said. “We have no buffer.”

Self-administered Covid-19 tests were distributed at a testing site in Chicago.
Credit…Taylor Glascock for The New York Times

The United States reported a record of more than 500,000 new cases over the past week, as states and cities resorted to stricter new measures to contain the virus that is raging across the country, especially the American heartland.

The record was broken Tuesday, even as the Trump administration announced what it called its first-term scientific accomplishments, in a news release that included “ENDING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC,” written in bold, capital letters.

The record reflects how quickly the virus is spreading. It took nearly three months for the first 500,000 coronavirus cases to be tallied in the United States — the first was confirmed on Jan. 21, and the country did not reach the half-million mark until April 11. Testing was severely limited in the early days of the pandemic.

The new restrictions range from a nightly business curfew in Newark, N.J., to a two-week stay-at-home order in El Paso to a halt in indoor dining in Chicago.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker of Illinois announced on Tuesday that he was stopping indoor dining and bar service in Chicago, effective at 12:01 a.m. Friday.

The city joins New York and Wisconsin, states that this month issued restrictions or outright bans on indoor dining in restaurants and bars to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The restrictions have been loudly opposed by a restaurant industry that has been decimated by the pandemic.

Chicago is now averaging more than twice as many coronavirus-related hospital admissions per day as it was a month ago, Mr. Pritzker’s office said, and the share of tests that are coming back positive has almost doubled since the beginning of October.

The U.S. has reported a record daily average of about 73,000 new cases over the past week, an increase of about 40 percent from the average two weeks earlier. Twenty states, including Illinois, have recorded their highest seven-day average of new cases, and three states (Tennessee, Wisconsin and Oklahoma) have set a record seven-day average for deaths. On Tuesday, Oklahoma and Wyoming broke single-day death records and Kentucky reported a new daily cases record.

In Chicago, outdoor service will be allowed if tables are spaced six feet apart; reservations are required, and service shuts down at 11 p.m. All social gatherings in the city will be limited to 25 people or 25 percent of the venue’s capacity, whichever is less.

“We can’t ignore what is happening around us,” Mr. Pritzker said in a statement. “Because without action, this could look worse than anything we saw in the spring.”

Diners along St. Kilda Beach in Melbourne, Australia, on Wednesday, when a 111-day coronavirus lockdown came to an end.
Credit…Asanka Brendon Ratnayake/Associated Press

Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city, emerged from one of the world’s longest and most severe lockdowns on Wednesday, feeling both traumatized and euphoric after weeks of shared sacrifice that brought a deadly second wave of the coronavirus to heel.

It took 111 days, but Melbourne and the surrounding state of Victoria recorded no new infections on Monday, and on Wednesday thousands of stores, cafes, restaurants and beauty salons opened their doors for the first time in months.

“That is an achievement that every single Victorian should be proud of,” said the state’s top official, Daniel Andrews.

The collective exit for a city of five million came suddenly and none too soon — Mr. Andrews had insisted on a very low threshold of cases before lifting the lockdown. It ended a dizzying and lonely experience that many in Melbourne described as an emotional roller coaster with effects on the economy, education and mental health that will linger.

The turnaround since July has been dramatic: Infections at the time were threatening to spiral out of control, hitting a peak of more than 700 a day. Schools, businesses and houses of worship closed. People could not travel more than three miles from home without a permit. They could go outside for only an hour (then two), and for weeks, they faced a nightly curfew.

Now, Victoria has subdued the virus while European countries that had similar caseloads a few months ago — and that ended their lockdowns after overcoming initial waves of infections — are struggling with an explosion of new cases. The hard-won success has allowed people in Melbourne to re-enter their city, Australia’s capital of coffee and culture, even if they are unsure how tense or loose to be.

Shortly after the lockdown lifted at midnight, 20 people (the legal limit for now) ordered drinks and swapped lockdown stories at Cherry Bar, a hole-in-the-wall rock venue.

“It feels surreal,” said Ryan Gribble, 37, who was a regular patron before the pandemic. “It feels like the bar’s shut and only the regulars are left drinking — but it’s actually open.”

“It’s like this tiny little flower that’s just sticking out one petal at a time,” he added.

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Early voting in New Orleans on Tuesday.
Credit…Kathleen Flynn/Reuters

Drive-through polling places. Candidates trying to sell themselves to voters on Zoom. Canvassers in masks and gloves knocking on doors and then scurrying six feet back.

The coronavirus has upended the 2020 election season at nearly every turn: emerging as the dominant issue among candidates up and down the ballot, scrambling American campaign traditions and complicating the way votes are cast. And as Election Day nears, the United States is in the grip of the pandemic like never before.

“All we’re missing is the asteroid landing with flesh-eating zombies, and our year will be complete,” said Paul Lux, the supervisor of elections in Okaloosa County, Fla., and one of the nearly nine million Americans to contract the virus.

The collision of an election and a pandemic has thrown campaigns and early voting efforts into a last-minute frenzy, and the dual narratives seem to be reaching an apex at precisely the same moment.

Voters who had never considered mailing their ballots are doing that for the first time rather than braving their usual indoor polling places. And some in the nation’s army of Election Day workers are weighing what levels of protective equipment to wear — if they go to the polls again this year at all.

While the coronavirus first spread fastest and worst in urban and suburban counties that tend to support Democrats, the geographic pattern of the pandemic has since shifted. By late spring and summer, the pattern began to shift more into small cities and rural counties that are more solidly Republican. The share of cases reported in red counties has grown every month, from 20 percent in March to 56 percent now, a New York Times analysis of virus data shows.

Sharp Increase in Covid-19 Hospitalizations Strains U.S.
Hospitals 2

Solid/Likely Democratic

Lean Democratic

Lean Republican

Solid/Likely Republican

80 new cases

per 100,000

North Dakota

South Dakota

Pennsylvania

Sharp Increase in Covid-19 Hospitalizations Strains U.S.
Hospitals 3

Lean Democratic

Lean Republican

Solid/Likely Republican

Solid/Likely Democratic

80 new cases

per 100,000

North Dakota

South Dakota

Pennsylvania

Sharp Increase in Covid-19 Hospitalizations Strains U.S.
Hospitals 4

Solid/Likely Democratic

Lean Democratic

80 new cases

per 100,000

Pennsylvania

Lean Republican

Solid/Likely Republican

North Dakota

South Dakota

Sharp Increase in Covid-19 Hospitalizations Strains U.S.
Hospitals 5

Lean Democratic

Solid/Likely Democratic

80 new cases

per 100,000

Lean Republican

Solid/Likely Republican

Some of this shift is happening in states which are heavily Republican overall, but much of it is occurring in counties that represent President Trump’s base within battleground states that could decide the election.

What will never be forgotten in 2020 is the Covid Election, when a pandemic turned upside down all parts of American democracy, from the campaigns to the poll workers to the millions of people trying to cast their ballots.

A mural depicts Melanie Senior, an NHS nurse, in Manchester, England.
Credit…Peter Powell/EPA, via Shutterstock

As Britain is hit by a second wave of coronavirus infections and deaths, the country’s doctors and nurses are bracing for what is expected to be a deluge of new patients over the next six months. But this time, they say, the wave is coming without the same sense of caution among a coronavirus-weary public, nor with a clear government strategy to contain the virus and address rapidly filling intensive care units.

Politicians across the political spectrum in Britain largely accepted the need for the country’s first lockdown in the spring, and doctors limped through the crisis, fueled by adrenaline and the hope that the government could keep an eventual resurgence of cases from inundating the health service again.

That hope has not been realized. With 367 deaths and 22,885 confirmed cases on Tuesday alone, Britain has a second wave of infections that could test its overextended health service even more severely than the first did.

A decision by England’s health service to restore normal services has meant that there are fewer unoccupied hospital beds now than there were in the spring, and fewer doctors available to redeploy to coronavirus wards.

Making matters worse, hospitals are already receiving the usual wintertime stream of patients with influenza and other illnesses that can fill them above 95 percent of capacity even in a normal year.

“The first time around, it’s almost like a once-in-a-lifetime kind of medical challenge,” said Paul Whitaker, a respiratory doctor in Bradford, in northern England, where the number of coronavirus patients has returned to its early May peak.

“At the time, it felt like the thing to do, because it was unavoidable and we had to do our bit,” said Tom Lawton, an intensive care doctor in Bradford. “It was that kind of Blitz spirit. Whereas this time, it feels like this could have been avoided, and clearly it has been avoided in a number of countries.”

Ferry Street is at the heart of the Ironbound, a neighborhood in Newark where one in four people have recently tested positive for the coronavirus.
Credit…Bryan Anselm for The New York Times

It has been barely seven months since Newark, New Jersey’s largest city and a short ride from New York by train or car, began suffering disproportionate losses when the pandemic first gripped the region in the spring.

And it is here that the state is getting a glimpse of what could lie ahead this fall and winter as New Jersey struggles to control an alarming uptick in new virus cases statewide.

On Tuesday at 8 p.m., the state’s first new shutdown order since March took hold in the city by order of the mayor, Ras Baraka, a Democrat.

New Jersey’s governor, Philip D. Murphy, has so far avoided the targeted shutdowns that states like New York and Connecticut have begun enforcing to address virus hot spots, but he said he supported the steps Mr. Baraka was taking to tame the outbreak. Mr. Murphy and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York have consulted on the surge in Newark.

“It seems desperate,” Mr. Baraka said at a news conference on Monday, “but it’s a desperate moment.”

“My job right now is to make sure people stay alive,” he added, acknowledging the at least 672 residents who have already died from the virus.

Under the order, restaurants and other nonessential businesses citywide must close to indoor customers at 8 p.m. daily, and parks within the one city ZIP code that encompasses the Ironbound — 07105 — are off limits for sporting events, including youth team practices and games.

Newark’s hair and nail salons may stay open by appointment only, and health clubs must close down for 30 minutes each hour to sanitize equipment.

At University Hospital in Newark, New Jersey’s only public hospital, the number of patients hospitalized with Covid-19 has been doubling each week, and 6 percent of tests conducted at its clinic are now coming back positive, said Dr. Shereef Elnahal, the hospital’s chief executive.

Credit…Tim Heitman/USA Today Sports, via Reuters
Credit…Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Moments after the Los Angeles Dodgers clinched the World Series title on Tuesday night, as their players and coaches mingled excitedly on the field before receiving their trophy, a Fox broadcaster delivered some shocking news: Justin Turner, the Dodgers’ longtime third baseman, had been taken out of the game because he had received a positive result on a coronavirus test.

It would have been a stunning revelation after any game, but this was the deciding game of the World Series, the climax of baseball’s marquee event playing out on national television in front of millions of viewers. The completion of the season had been seen as a triumph of Major League Baseball’s plan to keep the virus at bay — a plan that had been tightened during the regular season after significant outbreaks within two major league clubs.

But Turner’s positive test during Game 6 put a damper on the end-of-season celebrations and raised questions about the handling of the situation by both M.L.B. and the Dodgers, as well as about what would happen to members of the Dodgers organization in the coming days after being exposed to an infected individual.

“It’s a bittersweet night for us,” Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said during an interview before Turner was seen celebrating on the field.

“We’re glad to be done,” Manfred continued. “I do think it’s a great accomplishment for our players to get this season completed, but obviously we’re concerned when any of our players test positive. We learned during the game that Justin was positive and immediately isolated him to prevent the spread.”

Turner, 35, who has been with the Dodgers since 2014, was replaced before the start of the eighth inning of the 3-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays. At the beginning of the Dodgers’ postgame celebration at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, Turner was not seen with his teammates on the field. He posted a tweet shortly after the game saying he had no symptoms, adding: “Can’t believe I couldn’t be out there to celebrate with my guys!”

But minutes later, Turner was back on the field: holding the trophy, kissing his wife and mingling with other players, coaches, team officials and family members. At times, he was wearing a mask. During other moments, including the team’s group photo with the trophy, he was not.

The Dodgers’ star outfielder Mookie Betts, speaking to reporters on a video call, dismissed concerns about Turner being on the field. “Forget all that,” Betts said. “He’s part of the team. We’re not excluding him from anything.”

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