April 22, 2024

Tuesday, July 27, 2021 | Kaiser Health News

Worst In The US: Florida, Arkansas Have ‘High Transmission’ Everywhere

In the past week, Florida accounted for nearly a quarter of all cases in the country — more than any other state. Meanwhile, health care workers at Jacksonville’s Baptist Medical Center say severely ill covid patients are begging to receive the vaccine just before being put on ventilators.

In These 2 US States, Every County Is Listed As ‘High Transmission’ 

Florida and Arkansas currently share a grim distinction when it comes to the spread of the coronavirus. Every one of the two states’ counties is now listed as having “high” levels of community transmission, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC lists high transmission in nearly every county in several other states, including Missouri, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. (Ellis, 7/27)

In more updates from Florida —

Mayor Of Florida County Home To Disney World Sounds Alarm On Surging Covid Cases 

The mayor of the Florida county that’s home to Disney World and Universal Studios is sounding the alarm on a spike of Covid-19 cases in the area, saying the county is now in “crisis mode” as it grapples with its worsening infection rate. “These numbers are extraordinary. We are seeing nearly 1,000 new cases in Orange County daily. Those are the numbers we saw at the highest peak last year,” Mayor Jerry Demings, a Democrat, said Monday during a news conference. “So a thousand a day is extraordinary. We are now in crisis mode.” (Cole, 7/27)

Staff At A Jacksonville Baptist Hospital Say They Are Hearing Panic, Fear And Regret From Unvaccinated Patients 

Health care workers at Jacksonville’s Baptist Medical Center in Florida are hearing panic, fear and regret from many of their patients as an increasing number are admitted for Covid-19 complications — and as many need to be put on ventilators. “We’re getting ready to intubate the patient, which means putting them on a ventilator, and they said, ‘If I get the vaccine now, could I not go on the ventilator?’ So, they’re begging for it,” Chief Nursing Officer Tammy Daniel told CNN. “They’re desperate because they are gasping for air, they can’t breathe, they are scared, they feel like they’re going to pass away.” (Holcombe and Kaye, 7/27)

Health News Florida:
As Coronavirus Cases Rise, USF Public Health Experts Urge Masks At Schools

Two professors from the University of South Florida’s College of Public Health went live on Facebook last week to talk about how recent increases in coronavirus cases might affect students as they return to school. Jill Roberts, an expert in molecular epidemiology, and Katherine Drabiak, an attorney who focuses on health law and medical ethics, answered community questions about masks, school safety, and the spread of the virus. “I do believe that kids should go back to school, the brick and mortar is really important for them for their learning,” Roberts said. “However, they should not be going back unprotected.” (Wentz, 7/26)

‘Sellout’: Anti-Vax Conservatives Come For DeSantis

Florida’s Covid crisis has wedged Gov. Ron DeSantis between two competing forces: public health experts who urge him to do more and anti-vaxxers who want him to do less. The Republican governor has come under attack from the medical community and Democrats as the Delta strain of Covid-19 sweeps through Florida, turning it into a national coronavirus hotspot. The state recorded more than 73,000 infections last week — four times as many as the start of July — leading to overcrowded hospitals and more than 300 deaths in the most recent seven-day period. Florida is now home to one in five new cases of Covid-19 in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Dixson, 7/26)

And in more news from Arkansas —

Arkansas Governor, Top Lawmakers To Meet On Mask Mandate Ban

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Monday he planned to meet with House and Senate leaders about growing calls to allow schools to require face masks as the state reported 23 more deaths from COVID-19. The Republican governor said he planned to discuss the issue Tuesday with the GOP leaders of the state House and Senate, following calls from Democratic lawmakers and others to lift a state law banning mask mandates by state and local governments. (DeMillo, 7/27)

Arkansas Churches Return To COVID Policies As Cases Rise 

With the latest uptick in COVID-19 cases, some Arkansas churches are changing their COVID regulations and implementing mandates to limit the spread of the virus. While regulations like mandatory masks on campus feel like a step backwards for members at St. James United Methodist Church, senior pastor Rev. Ben Crismon encourages the congregation to see themselves as a temple to protect. (7/25)

Business Insider/Yahoo News:
A Healthcare Worker Who Was Hospitalized For A Month With COVID-19 Says She Now Has Nearly $1 Million In Medical Bills

A healthcare worker from Arkansas has said that she has racked up medical bills of close to $1 million after she was hospitalized from COVID-19, she told THV11. Shenita Russie, 42, caught the virus while working as a mobile respiratory therapist for COVID-19 patients in Boston at the start of the pandemic, Newsweek reported. She was hospitalized for a month and was placed in a medically-induced coma, according to the media outlet. During this time, she racked up an eye-watering amount in bills. (Zitser, 7/25)

60% Of Covid Cases Were Unreported As Of March, Study Suggests

The case count is probably higher now, but not too much higher because vaccines have rolled out, said the lead author of the study at the University of Washington. Other news is on covid transmission during wildfires, how hospitals are coping with the covid surge and more.

Up To 60% Of U.S. Covid-19 Cases Unreported, Disease Model Says

As many as 60% of Covid-19 cases in the U.S. have gone unreported, and the coronavirus has infected nearly 1 in 5 Americans, according to a new model out of the University of Washington. The model, which aims to mitigate biases in data capture, estimates that 65 million people, or 19.7% of U.S. residents, had been infected as of March 7. The findings, which appear in Monday’s issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, indicate the U.S. is unlikely to reach community level protection without continuing an ambitious vaccination campaign. (Baumann, 7/26)

Fox News:
Wildfire Smoke Exposure Linked To COVID-19 Case Increase: Study

Wildfire smoke exposure likely contributed to an increase in Reno, Nevada’s COVID-19 cases last year, researchers suggested, noting that the findings could inform policies to tamp down harmful effects from air pollution amid the pandemic. Exposure to tiny particles in smoke (specifically measuring 2.5 µm in diameter or smaller, PM2.5) “increases susceptibility to respiratory viruses” causes airway inflammation, and boosts “the spread and survival of bacterial, fungal, and viral bioaerosols,” including those containing the virus causing COVID-19, study authors wrote in findings recently published in the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology. (Rivas, 7/26)

Hospitals feel the unrelenting strain —

Fox News:
Texas COVID-19 Hospitalizations See 150% Increase In Last Month

Texas reported 4,320 COVID-19-related hospitalizations on Saturday, a high not seen since mid-March, when the state’s numbers began trending downward. The total marks an increase of over 1,000 hospitalizations from the prior week, when the state reported just shy of 3,000. Last week, the state’s health commissioner noted a 150% increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations between June 27 and July 20. Dr. John Hellerstedt, the commissioner of the department of state health services, noted that the delta variant makes up most new cases in Texas. He urged residents who haven’t yet received a COVID-19 vaccine to seek out the shot. (Hein, 7/26)

New Orleans Times-Picayune:
As COVID Surge Escalates In Louisiana, Hospitals Shut Down Elective Surgeries: ‘No Room At Our Inn’

Louisiana’s ongoing surge of COVID continued to escalate over the weekend, with an additional 6,225 cases reported since Friday, marking one of the largest increases in case counts since the pandemic began. Though vaccinations are also increasing, it’s not enough to stem the flood of patients into hospitals, according to weary health care workers now well into their fourth surge in the past 18 months. “It’s so fast we can’t really grasp it,” said Dr. Catherine O’Neal, chief medical officer at Our Lady of the Lake in Baton Rouge and associate professor at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine. “I don’t know where we’ll be in three days, but I’m afraid we’ll reach crisis standards of care if we don’t make some changes quickly.” (Woodruff, 7/26)

The Oregonian:
Coronavirus In Oregon: Hospitalizations Climb 40% In Last Week, Cases Climb 53%

State health data shows 3,098 new cases of the coronavirus in Oregon since Monday, July 19, and 12 COVID-19 deaths. The number of Oregonians hospitalized with COVID-19 now stands at 207, up from 148 one week ago. New cases went up 53%, the second week in a row at that rate or higher. Even as models project hospitalizations in excess of 300 by the end of September, state officials have no plans for reinstating statewide measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus. (Zarkhin, 7/26)

Salt Lake Tribune:
Utah Hospitals Feeling Strain Of July’s COVID-19 Surge, A Logan Doctor Says

The number of Utahns hospitalized with COVID-19 continued its summer surge over the Pioneer Day weekend, and the head of a Logan hospital says her staff is feeling the strain. “We have high volumes of patients in the hospital, and we’re really nervous about our COVID numbers rising, because we remember what it was like when it was really bad — and I fear that we’re heading there again,” Dr. Taki May, medical director of Intermountain Logan Regional Hospital, said Monday. The Utah Department of Health reported Monday that 343 Utahns were hospitalized for COVID-19 — 52 more than on Thursday, before the holiday weekend. Of that number, 152 are in intensive care, up 24 from Thursday. (Means, 7/26)

Anchorage Daily News:
Alaska Hospital Group Warns The Potential For A Surge In COVID-19 Admissions ‘Increasing By The Day’

A continued spike in virus-related hospitalizations is causing particular worry among Alaska’s hospital administrators. They say the state could be headed for a surge in hospital admissions that threatens Alaska’s fragile health care network. “Right now, based on the trends we’re seeing, the likelihood of a significant COVID surge is increasing by the day,” Jared Kosin, president of the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association, said Monday. “And our health care system is in a far more fragile state than it was a year ago. We’re extremely concerned.” (Berman, 7/26)

Houston Chronicle:
‘Now They Want The Vaccine’: Houston ER Docs Speak From Front Line Of Latest COVID Surge

The fourth COVID-19 wave is like a sequel to a movie that no one ever wanted to watch in the first place, said Dr. Gina Blocker, attending emergency physician at Baylor St. Luke’s Hospital. “This feels like a part two with additional scenes,” said Blocker, who feels this recent surge could have been avoided had more Houstonians been vaccinated. In Harris County, the number of active coronavirus cases has nearly tripled — from 3,076 to 8,431 — since the beginning of July, as the hypercontagious delta variant spreads rapidly among young, and primarily unvaccinated, Texans. (Garcia, 7/26)

Also —

The Wall Street Journal:
Covid Treatment Options Remain Elusive, Despite Months Of Effort And Rising Delta Cases

Nearly a year and a half into the pandemic, researchers are still struggling to find effective, easy-to-use drugs to treat Covid-19.Ten drugs have been cleared or recommended in the U.S. for use. Two of those later had their authorizations rescinded after they failed to work. The government recently paused shipments of a third because it wasn’t effective against new variants. The best medicines for early treatment are cumbersome to administer, and drugs for those in the hospital can only do so much for patients who are already severely ill. (Walker, 7/26)

Missouri Sues To Stop St. Louis’ New Mask Mandate

Missouri’s attorney general is targeting St. Louis’ newly reinstated mandate that everyone over 5 wear masks in indoor public places and public transport, saying it’s “arbitrary and capricious.” Masking rules in Georgia, Oregon and nine western Washington counties are also in the news — as is possible revised guidance from the federal government.

Missouri AG Sues Over St. Louis Area Mask Mandate

The attorney general in Missouri has sued in an effort to halt a mask mandate that took effect Monday in the St. Louis area amid a rise in COVID-19 cases that are burdening a growing number of hospitals around the state. The mandate, one of the first to be reinstated in the country, requires everyone age 5 or older to wear masks in indoor public places and on public transportation in St. Louis city and St. Louis County even if they are vaccinated. Wearing masks outdoors is strongly encouraged, especially in group settings. (Hollingsworth and Salter, 7/26)

Savannah Reimposes Indoor Mask Mandate

Savannah, Georgia, will again require people to wear face masks while inside public places because of a “steep and alarming rise” in COVID-19 cases, Mayor Van Johnson announced Monday, per AP. Savannah is the most recent major U.S. city to reimpose some coronavirus restrictions in response to an increase in cases and hospitalizations. (7/26)

9 Western WA Counties Now Recommend Mask Use Indoors

Health officials in more than a half-dozen western Washington counties are now recommending mask-wearing in indoor public spaces regardless of vaccine status because of a rise in COVID-19 cases and the highly infectious delta variant. Public Health Seattle & King County officials said on Monday in a joint statement with the counties that local health officers from around the Puget Sound region were joining together in the recommendation after King County health officer, Dr. Jeff Duchin, issued the guidance on Friday. (7/27)

The Oregonian:
Multnomah County Recommends Vaccinated, Unvaccinated People Wear Masks Inside To Slow COVID-19 

Multnomah County officials Monday “strongly recommended” that everyone wear masks when indoors, stopping short of a mask mandate to curb the rapidly accelerating spread of COVID-19. The recommendation applies to anyone five years and older, whether or not they’ve been vaccinated against the disease. The recommendation comes as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations climb statewide, including a 51% increase in new cases in Multnomah County during the week ending July 24 compared to the week prior. (Zarkhin, 7/26)

From the Biden administration —

Decision On Mask Guidance Is Imminent, Source Says

op federal health officials have debated whether to issue new guidance on masks and are close to announcing their decision as the highly contagious Delta variant fuels new outbreaks in the United States. Top officials huddled on Sunday night to go over the new data and evidence regarding the transmissibility of the variant and breakthrough cases, according to a person familiar with the talks. An announcement could come as soon as Tuesday, although one person cautioned it could happen later this week. (Collins and Sullivan, 7/27)

To Mask Or Not To Mask In School — States Are Deciding, Differently

In New Mexico, officials say vaxxed students in K-12 schools may unmask in some situations. In Hawaii, a week before school starts, authorities suggested masking at all times indoors. Louisiana’s schools can decide their own covid restrictions.

New Mexico Releases Plans For Masking, Vaccines In Schools

New Mexico education officials released updated guidance on COVID-19 case reporting, masking requirements and vaccine considerations for K-12 schools this fall. The new rules rolled out Monday give vaccinated students more chances to take off masks. It also allows them to avoid quarantines if there’s an outbreak on campus. Schools serving only middle or high school students can choose to allow vaccinated children to go without masks in most situations. (Attanasio, 7/27)

Updated Hawaii Health Guidance A Week Before New School Year

Hawaii’s Department of Health has updated it guidance to schools a week before the start of another school year during the pandemic. The department’s guidance announced Monday includes recommendations for wearing masks in all indoor settings and maintaining at least 3 feet (1 meter) of physical distance between students in classrooms, when possible. (7/26)

Beshear Urges Masks In Schools To Try To Avoid Disruptions

Kentucky’s governor on Monday urged school districts to require mask-wearing in schools to minimize the risk of disruptions from an escalating coronavirus surge fueled by the highly contagious delta variant. With schools reopening in coming weeks, Gov. Andy Beshear called on local school district leaders to take the recommended steps needed to protect students and school workers while trying to avoid the pandemic-caused disruptions that hampered the previous academic year. (Schreiner and Blackburn, 7/26)

New COVID-19 Testing Program Offered To Kentucky Schools

The Kentucky Department for Public Health is offering a COVID-19 Testing Program for schools to assist with safe in-person learning for the upcoming academic year, Commissioner Steven Stack announced Monday. It is limited to staff and students of Kentucky K-12 public, private and charter schools. (7/27)

The Advocate:
Louisiana Schools Will Determine Their Own COVID Restrictions, State Says

Unlike last year, Louisiana public school leaders are deferring to local school officials on face masks and other safety measures amid the rising number of cases of the coronavirus. Sandy Holloway, president of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, said the board is standing by guidelines by the state Department of Education released on July 8, well before the latest surge. BESE sets policy for the state’s public school systems. “BESE has issued no mandates and approved no policies related to masking or distancing in schools for the coming year,” Holloway said in a statement. (Sentell, 7/26)

NBC News:
With Ban On Mask Mandates, Texas Teachers Fear Covid Surge As School Year Nears

As second grade teacher Aaron Phillips prepares to return to his classroom in Amarillo, Texas, in a few weeks, he is increasingly concerned that he and his students will be at risk in an alarming surge in coronavirus cases driven by the highly contagious delta variant. Phillips is vaccinated and will be wearing a mask when school starts Aug. 17, but it is unclear how many of his students or the other adults in the building will also be wearing them after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott banned public school districts from requiring face coverings. (Silva, 7/26)

In related news about covid transmission at college —

COVID In Dorms Led To Roommate Transmission 20% Of The Time, Study Says

Out of 574 multiple-occupancy dorm rooms, roommate transmissions occurred only 20% of the time, according to a study during the fall 2020 semester at the University of Colorado Boulder. The study, published late last week in The Journal of Infectious Diseases, looked at 6,408 dormitory students at the University of Colorado Boulder who were subject to a mandatory weekly COVID-19 test. From Aug 24 to Nov 25, 2020, 16.5% tested positive, with most asymptomatic at the time of testing. Case investigations and contact tracing showed that many cases originated off campus. (7/26)