More than 100,000 patients are hospitalized due to the novel coronavirus in the U.S. for the first time since the outbreak began in early 2020. The grim milestone comes as health officials warned of surges tied to holiday travel and lockdown fatigue.
The numbers had been steadily increasing – minus a slight dip on Nov. 27 -- since the end of October, but the increase of some 60,000 in a matter of weeks marks the steepest spike the country has seen yet, according to data collected by The COVID Tracking Project.
Hope has been hinged on the rollout of a coronavirus vaccine, but the FDA is not scheduled to meet to discuss Pfizer’s application for emergency use authorization until Dec. 10. A meeting to decide on Moderna’s application will be held a week later.
Still, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, has warned that the vaccine will not be the ultimate end to the pandemic. He has called for increased public health measures in an effort to stifle the spread before the vaccine is approved.
He noted that it’s not clear what impact – if any – the vaccine will have on the transmission of the virus, as the candidates have been evaluated to see if they prevent clinically apparent or severe disease among vaccinated individuals.
“The issue is that you’re not going to be completely protected against a degree of infection that you might not even notice – that you might be able to spread to others,” Fauci said, while participating in a virtual discussion with The Hastings Center. “Which is the reason why the message you may have heard me say over the last couple weeks in the media is that getting vaccinated with a highly efficacious vaccine does not mean that you’re going to abandon completely public health measures.”
Across the nation, health systems have warned about nearing or reaching full capacity due to the novel coronavirus, with the Mayo Clinic going so far as to set up emergency room beds in the ambulance garage. Rhode Island opened a field hospital in Cranston, New York is looking to expand capacity, North Texas just crossed the governor’s limit and elsewhere residents brace for another lockdown as testing positivity rates increase.
“The red flags are flying,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom said during an online briefing Nov. 30. “If trends continue, we’re going to have to take much more dramatic, arguably drastic, action.”