School systems in Detroit, Indianapolis, Philadelphia and suburban Minneapolis are giving up on in-person classes, and some governors are reimposing restrictions on bars and restaurants or getting more serious about masks, as the coast-to-coast resurgence of the coronavirus sends deaths, hospitalizations and new infections soaring.
The crisis deepened at hospitals, with the situation so bad in North Dakota that the governor this week said nurses who test positive but have no symptoms can still work. Idaho clinics struggled to handle the deluge of phone calls from patients.
The virus is blamed for more than 240,000 deaths and over 10.4 million confirmed infections in the U.S., with the country facing what health experts say will be a dark winter because of disregard for mask-wearing and other precautions, the onset of cold weather and crowded holiday gatherings.
“It should frighten all of us,” Dr. David Peterman, CEO of Idaho’s Primary Health Medical Group, said of the virus numbers.
“It’s easy to look at TV, and say, ‘I’m not in the intensive care unit, my grandmother’s not in the intensive care unit.’ But if I say to you your doctor cannot treat your child with an ear infection because I cannot answer your phone call, or your doctor is on quarantine, or our clinics are full with people with coronavirus?”
Deaths per day in the U.S. have soared more than 40 percent over the past two weeks, from an average of about 790 to more than 1,100 as of Wednesday, the highest level in three months.
That is still well below the peak of about 2,200 deaths per day in late April, in what may reflect the availability of better treatments and the increased share of cases among young people, who are more likely than older ones to survive a bout with COVID-19.
But newly confirmed cases per day in the U.S. have rocketed more than 70 percent over the past two weeks, reaching an average of about 127,000 — the highest on record. And the number of people currently hospitalized with the virus hit an all-time high of more than 65,000.
Amid the staggering numbers, some state leaders continued to take a hands-off approach, pushing “personal responsibility” rather than government-imposed restrictions such as mandatory mask-wearing.
Reflecting what has largely been a red state-blue state divide in the U.S., Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt of Oklahoa has refused to impose a mask mandate, citing concerns about enforcement and a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Instead, he held a news conference this week with doctors from across the state who implored residents to wear masks.