Hospitals across the United States are starting to buckle from a resurgence of COVID-19 cases, with several states setting records for the number of people hospitalized and leaders scrambling to find extra beds and staff. New highs in cases have been reported in states big and small — from Idaho to Ohio — in recent days.
The rise in cases and hospitalizations was alarming to medical experts.
“It’s really worrisome,” said Saskia Popescu, an epidemiologist at George Mason University. Around the world, disease trackers have seen a pattern: First, the number of cases rises, then hospitalizations and finally there are increases in deaths. Seeing hospitals struggling is alarming, she said, because it may already be too late to stop a crippling surge.
“By the time we see hospitalizations rise, it means we’re really struggling,” Popescu said.
Meanwhile, U.S. health officials redefined what counts as close contact with someone with COVID-19 to include briefer but repeated encounters.
For months, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said close contact meant spending a solid 15 minutes within 6 feet of someone who tested positive for coronavirus. On Wednesday, the CDC changed it to a total of 15 minutes or more — so shorter but repeated contacts that add up to 15 minutes over a 24-hour period now count.
The CDC advises anyone who has been in close contact with a COVID-19 patient to quarantine for two weeks.
In other developments:
- Negotiations on a COVID-19 relief bill are inching forward, but it's clear the window for action before the Nov. 3 election is closing and the issue will be tossed to a postelection lame-duck session of Congress. The only thing that seems certain beyond that is uncertainty, with Capitol Hill veterans cautioning against expecting a quick and smooth resolution for an aid package that has tied Washington in knots for months.
- U.S. stocks capped another wobbly day of trading with modest losses Wednesday as Wall Street waited for any signs of progress as lawmakers in Washington negotiate over how to deliver more aid for the economy.
- The global hunt for a COVID-19 vaccine for kids is only just beginning — a lagging start that has some U.S. pediatricians worried they may not know if any shots work for young children in time for the next school year.
- Gov. Andrew Cuomo is easing restrictions slightly in some coronavirus hot spots in New York City, but adding them in areas along the Pennsylvania border as the state recorded more than 2,000 new infections in a single day for the first time since mid-May.
- Spain has become the first country in western Europe to accumulate more than 1 million confirmed infections, as the nation of 47 million struggles to contain a resurgence of the coronavirus.