POST 185. August 6, 2021. CORONAVIRUS. ‘If you aren’t going to help, please get out of the way’: Biden turns up the pressure on GOP governors as Delta spreads”
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“President Joe Biden on Tuesday ratcheted up pressure on some Republican governors to do more for their constituents as the highly contagious Delta variant rips across their states.
The remarks came as Biden said in a speech on Tuesday that the US has shared more than 100 million vaccine doses globally, and announced a number of new steps taken since last week to try to get more Americans vaccinated and slow the spread of coronavirus. The new efforts included requiring that all federal employees must attest to being vaccinated against Covid-19 or face strict protocols and encouraging states to provide cash incentives to people to get vaccinated.
Even with those measures, Biden lamented the current state of Covid-19 in the US, saying the Delta variant is “moving like wildfire through the unvaccinated communities and it’s heartbreaking particularly because it’s preventable.” The President squarely blamed policy decisions made in states that have bans on mask mandates, specifically pointing to Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis — who represent the two states which now make up about a third of the nation’s new Covid-19 cases.
Biden cited Texas’ rule, saying “state universities or community colleges could be fined if it allows a teacher to ask her unvaccinated students to wear a mask.”…
But Biden emphasized that “we’re going to see these cases rise in the weeks ahead — a largely preventable tragedy that will get worse before it gets better.”…
The Delta variant, which can cause more severe illness than Covid-19, is quickly spreading in areas of the country with low vaccination rates and is threatening to derail much of the progress the nation has made in combating the pandemic. Hospitals are once again filling up with patients as the virus tears through the unvaccinated population.
But vaccination rates are improving amid the skyrocketing cases and hospitalizations. The White House on Monday announced that 70% of US adults had received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine — a big milestone they had initially hoped to achieve by July Fourth. A little less than 50% of the US population has been fully vaccinated.
Vaccination rates are increasing in states with the highest cases, according to the White House, with the eight states with the highest current case rates having seen an average increase of 171% in the number of people newly vaccinated each day over the past three weeks,” (A)
“Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis defended unvaccinated people who were getting sick from COVID-19, saying the media was being “judgmental.” “When somebody contracts a highly transmissible airborne virus, they’re viewed as having done something wrong,” he said. “And that’s just not the way you do it when people come in, you treat them. Are you going to sit there and criticize, or are we going to try to treat, and try to help the folks? Nobody’s trying to get ill here,” the report said.” (B)
“This comes after DeSantis banned all school districts in the state from imposing mask mandates saying he wants to let parents to decide whether children will masks in schools. His Executive Order also empowers the state to deny funding to any districts that don’t comply.
The governor also touted hospitalizations being lower than they were last summer, but acknowledged they’ve been going up, and he’s watching emergency room visits.
“We follow that very closely. It went up sharply during most of July, towards the end of last month, it started to stabilize. We’ve basically been plateau, so we’re looking to see that roll over, and when that rolls over, I think you’re doing to see some of the other indicators roll over as well.”” (C)
“Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said Tuesday that his state will not shut down again despite a record-breaking influx of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, making the Sunshine State the nation’s new virus epicenter.
“We’re not shutting down,” DeSantis said Tuesday at a press conference. “These interventions have failed time and time again throughout this pandemic, not just in the United States but abroad. They have not stopped the spread. And particularly with Delta, which is even more transmissible, if it didn’t stop it before, it definitely ain’t going to stop it now.”
On Friday, Florida reported 21,683 new infections, the most COVID-19 cases in the state in a single day since the start of the pandemic, according to data released from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On Sunday, Florida had 10,207 people hospitalized from COVID-19 complications, which broke a previous record from more than half a year before vaccines were widely available, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services…
DeSantis attributed his state’s record-breaking uptick in cases and hospitalizations to the season, predicting that different regions in the country will soon undergo a similar surge and that things will get better in Florida.
Florida also leads the country with the highest per capita rate of children hospitalized with COVID-19. The state is averaging of 35 daily pediatric hospitalizations, according to Jason Salemi, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of South Florida…
DeSantis attributed the uptick in hospitalizations for younger Florida residents to the tiered vaccination rollout earlier this year which prioritized vulnerable populations like the elderly.
“Would I rather have five cases amongst 20-year-olds or 500 cases among seniors?” DeSantis asked. “I would rather have the younger because of the effect that it has. And so I think protecting the vulnerable has been the right way to go.”
As of July 30, approximately 58.6% of adults in Florida have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the CDC’s weekly state synopsis. DeSantis said 25,000 fully vaccinated Florida residents have tested positive for COVID since May 1, but he urged eligible residents to get the vaccine because it offers “some form of protection.”” (D)
“COVID-19 surges may not be new for hospitals or health systems, but here are seven reasons the one unfolding now differs from those before.
1. COVID-19 vaccinations are available.
2. Clinicians are experiencing a distinct and deep brand of exhaustion.
3. Hospitals are grappling with labor shortages.
4. The delta variant is more contagious.
5. Public health guidance is more nuanced.
6. COVID-19 patients are younger and fitter.
7. Non-COVID patients are sicker. “ (E)
“So it’s no surprise that Florida is where a new strain of the COVID-19 virus is starting to take hold. Discovered in Colombia, the new variant has been popping up in South Florida with increasing regularity. WPLG in Miami spoke with Carlos Migoya, CEO of Jackson Health System, who confirmed that this new variant has accounted for roughly 10% of incoming coronavirus patients…
Here in the U.S., the new Covid variant accounts for just over 2.1% of total coronavirus cases in the U.S. as of July 17, according to professor John Sellick from the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo. Still, remember that in South Florida, where it’s concentrated, the new B.1.621 variant accounts for about 10% of cases.
“The only time it becomes important is if it gives virus selective advantage, which we’ve seen with delta variant,” Sellick told the Washington Post. “What we have to see is two weeks from now, or four weeks from now, is this going to do another trick and wind up being more?” He pointed out that the delta variant had gone from accounting for around 10% of cases at the beginning of June to over 80% of cases by mid-July.
In other words, that number — that 10% we’ve already reached in South Florida — that is concerning. 10% means it’s taking hold. 10% is where Delta started.” (F)
“For the week ending July 29, 110,477 people tested positive for COVID-19 in Florida, according to state health officials…
A fourth wave of COVID-19 is threatening to overwhelm U.S. hospitals in regions where large swaths of unvaccinated people provide little resistance to the highly contagious delta variant.
Nowhere is the strain more apparent than Florida, which reached a new peak Tuesday of 11,515 people hospitalized with COVID-19, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Hospitals in Jacksonville and Orlando last week crashed through their pandemic peaks, and hospitals in Miami-Dade County are at or approaching record coronavirus hospitalizations this week, said Mary Mayhew, CEO of Florida Hospital Association.
And cases continue to surge, with 110,477 residents testing positive for the COVID-19 virus for the week that ended July 29, foreshadowing more people needing hospital care in the weeks ahead.
“The delta variant is ripping through the unvaccinated,” Mayhew said.
Further stressing hospitals are larger-than-normal volumes of sick people crowding emergency rooms with non-COVID-19 illnesses, Mayhew said. The combination has challenged hospitals’ capacity to staff enough nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists and other clinicians to care for the surge of critically ill patients.
With more than 1,000 coronavirus patients at hospitals across its six-county region, Orlando’s AdventHealth suspended non-emergency operations last week to free up staff and space. More than 90% of COVID-19 patients at AdventHealth’s hospitals are unvaccinated, and the small number of vaccinated patients with COVID-19 typically have underlying conditions such as cancer or autoimmune disease, the hospital said.
“We have peaked above any previous wave and it is straining our system, our physicians and all of our clinicians,” said Neil Finkler, chief clinical officer of AdventHealth’s Central Florida division…
In Texas, hospitals are preparing for the steady rise of COVID-19 hospitalizations that are following rising cases counts. Like in Florida, Texas hospital beds are being filled with unvaccinated COVID-19 patients, said Angela G. Clendenin, a professor at Texas A&M School of Public Health…
Hospitals in South Texas are already struggling to keep up with the pace of sick patients.
South Texas hospitals in Corpus Christi, Victoria, Kingsville, Beeville and San Antonio have begun diverting patients. In a statement this week, Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales urged available nurses to fill a staffing gap amid a surge of COVID-19 patients.
“Every staffed bed is full,” Canales said. “There are beds available but no nursing staff for them.”” (G)
“From Miami-Dade to Broward, the pressure on hospitals from unvaccinated community members falling sick with COVID-19 is intensifying.
The numbers are staggering. Jackson Health in Miami-Dade is experiencing a 210% increase in the number of COVID-19 patients since the start of the month.
Memorial Healthcare System in Broward has seen a 225% jump, and both hospital groups say the majority of all their patients are unvaccinated…
Jackson Memorial is short on beds and nurses and looking to add 50 ICU beds in the next week. At this point, that hospital is 80% full, including non-COVID patients.” (H)
“Coronavirus cases are on the rise among young people in Florida, but we don’t know yet how many of the cases involve children who’ve returned to the classroom.
Data released by the Florida Department of Health shows a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in younger people.
For example: On Aug. 17, there were 23,033 cases in the 5 to 14 age group. A month later, as schools reopened, the number jumped to 28,011 cases.
That’s a 22% increase in cases for the age group.
Hospitalizations also jumped 23% during the same time period. On Aug. 17, 196 kids were hospitalized. A month later, the hospitalization number increased to 241.
Here’s the problem: The state won’t tell us if these kids were in the classroom. So we don’t know if the cases are connected to schools…
Despite state data showing a growing number of cases in children, Florida is still not releasing virus data for schools and day cares.
The report has not yet been published, according to a Department of Health spokesman.
“It is currently being developed,” Director of Communications Alberto Moscoso said…
Dr. Jay Wolfson, a public health professor at USF Health, believes standardization is key.
“We don’t want to have 67 school districts around the state independently reporting stuff to the public,” said Dr. Wolfson.
Wolfson says a state report that details school infections in a uniform way, utilizing the same measurement and reporting techniques would be helpful.
Last month, Gov. Ron DeSantis said he supported releasing that data.
As we wait, Dr. Wolfson says it’s important to monitor the ventilation systems in schools to stop any spread.
“The most important thing you can do, other than wear masks and socially distance, is to make sure that the ventilation systems in those facilities are carefully monitored, the filters are checked,” said Dr. Wolfson. “It is scary for a parent, if your child does get sick, there’s a chance that they might get rather sick.”” (I)
“While much of the country wrestles with new masking guidance and new evidence of the dangers of the highly transmissible delta variant, public health authorities and doctors in the states hit hardest by the latest viral surge are confronting a new stage of the pandemic unlike anything they have seen.
Infections are tearing through their communities faster than before, even with significant chunks of their population immunized through vaccinations or natural antibodies from infections. Hospitals are struggling to keep up as their beds rapidly fill up with young and middle-aged unvaccinated adults.
They are illustrations of how quickly communities under assault from the delta variant can slip from normalcy to crisis mode and why public health authorities are sounding alarms even before cases in their communities surge.
“Eliminating the virus is no longer an option,” said Dave Rubin, director of PolicyLab at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “This is about trying to minimize the impact.”
Average daily new U.S. cases over the past month surged past 85,000 on Monday, surpassing last summer’s peak and now the highest since Feb. 18. Hospitals are treating around 50,000 covid-19 patients, a census that more than doubled in two weeks but remains below last summer’s levels. Deaths have risen slightly to around 370 a day but remain far below the 1,000 daily averages in early August of last year.
Aileen Marty, an infectious-disease expert at Florida International University, said new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing that the delta variant appears to cause more-severe illness and is transmissible by fully vaccinated people echoes how her lab has been detecting high viral loads among the vaccinated in South Florida as it battles a surge.
“Unfortunately it’s not acting in such a way it’s preventing that vaccinated person from being a transmitter,” Marty said. “We are really thinking this is going to go on through August unless there’s a massive change in behavior and vaccination rates.”..
.Rubin, who monitors coronavirus trends nationwide, said he is watching signs of emerging surges in Texas and California and potential fall spikes in Upper Midwest states with lower vaccination rates, such as Ohio and Indiana.
He stressed that the delta variant, while often primarily blamed for the surge, is more easily spreading and replicating in a country that has almost fully reopened, unlike in earlier stages of the pandemic.
“We are seeing the natural evolution of a virus without any masking or distancing,” Rubin said. “It’s a completely different environment for transmission.”
Experts project summer surge will grow worse before peaking. “ (J)
“As COVID-19 grips the metro, Kansas City area hospitals are so full, they’re asking people not to go to the emergency room unless they have a true emergency.
Wait times are stretching into the hours and staffs are overwhelmed, said Steve Hoeger, co-chair of the Mid-America Regional Council’s Health Care Coalition.
He urged people to call their primary care physician or go to an urgent care with minor needs and save the ERs for more serious problems, such as heart attacks and strokes.
“Hospitals are seeing unprecedented volume right now,” said Hoeger. “They’re busy with a lot of really sick people that are staying longer and tying up our bed capacity, and that puts added strain on our emergency departments.”
When local emergency departments get busy they switch into “high volume” status, which alerts ambulance services that patients face a delay of care so they can choose a less-busy hospital and be seen quicker.
But when 12 metro hospitals hit that high volume status for the first time last month, that option was shut down “because now everyone’s in the same boat,” Hoeger said.
That option has been unavailable to patients nearly every weekday for weeks, he said…
Many local emergency departments are also having to board patients who need to be hospitalized because in-patient beds are full, Hoeger said.
Those aren’t all COVID patients being admitted. Some are people with chronic health conditions who didn’t get medical treatment when the pandemic hit and hospitals canceled procedures and surgeries. Some patients also stayed away from doctors and hospitals for fear of catching COVID, and now their health has worsened.
“COVID is not the only player. We have a lot of other really sick people in the hospital,” said Hoeger. “But COVID’s becoming more and more of a player in this. Right now, at Truman, we have more COVID patients than we’ve seen since early January. Our peak was in December. And that number just continues to go up a little bit every day.”” (K)
“According to the Arkansas Hospital Association, a group that covers 111 hospitals in the state, only about 3% of ICU beds in Arkansas are available— out of the total number of 1,137 ICU beds in hospitals within the group’s network, only 37 beds are available.
The daily rise of people in the hospital for COVID also hit an all-time record Monday at an increase of 81 Arkansans checking themselves in for the virus.
The AHA said that among virus patients, 85% are unvaccinated.
“Today’s increase in hospitalizations is the highest increase we have seen since the beginning of the pandemic,” Governor Asa Hutchinson said. “We continue to see nearly all hospitalizations among the unvaccinated. Do your part to help. Hospitals are full & the only remedy is for more Arkansans to be vaccinated.”..
Another startling statistic announced Monday: Arkansas has surpassed the original peak of people on ventilators with COVID-19.” (L)
“Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson wants to reverse a ban on mask mandates that he enacted just a few months ago.
The Republican governor signed a bill in April to prohibit state and local officials from enforcing mask requirements. At the time, coronavirus cases were declining, so additional mandates were no longer needed, Hutchinson reasoned.
Now, he says he regrets the decision, as the highly contagious Delta variant has overwhelmed the state with an explosion of new infections, hospitalizations, and deaths.
“I signed it at the time because our cases were at a very low point. I knew it would be overridden by the legislature if I didn’t sign it,” Hutchinson said during a press conference on Tuesday. “And I had already eliminated our statewide mask mandate. And so I signed it for those reasons that our cases were at a low point. Everything has changed now.”
“Yes, in hindsight, I wish that it had not become law,” he added. “But it is the law, and the only chance we have is either to amend it or for the courts to say that it has an unconstitutional foundation.”
Hutchinson has now called for a special legislative session to amend the law. He said he’s especially concerned for children under the age of 12 who are not eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine but plan to return to in-person schooling in the fall and may be susceptible to the virus…
Arkansas has seen a steady uptick in coronavirus cases since July. The current daily average of new infections is 1,943, up 66% over the past two weeks, according to The New York Times. That’s much higher than the daily average of 187 new cases on April 29, when Hutchinson signed the ban on mask mandates into law.
The governor has also faced challenges in getting his state vaccinated against coronavirus. As of Wednesday, 46% of adults have been fully vaccinated.
“It’s a conservative state. Sometimes conservatives are hesitant about the government. And we just got to counteract that by getting better information to them, building confidence,” Hutchinson said last month.” (M)
- A.’If you aren’t going to help, please get out of the way’: Biden turns up the pressure on GOP governors as Delta spreads, By Kate Sullivan and Maegan Vazquez, https://www.cnn.com/2021/08/03/politics/biden-covid-remarks/index.html
- B.Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis defends unvaccinated people who are catching COVID-19: Media is being ‘judgmental’, by Kelly McLaughlin, https://www.businessinsider.com/florida-gov-desantis-unvaccinated-people-testing-positive-for-covid-2021-8?web=1&wdLOR=c001AB36F-CA5C-4E24-9054-3A7EFF690205
- C.COVID In Florida: Gov. DeSantis Downplays Coronavirus Threat As State Breaks New Hospitalization Record, By Ted Scouten, https://miami.cbslocal.com/2021/08/04/covid-florida-desantis-downplays-threat/
- D.Florida governor insists state won’t shut down amid record-breaking COVID cases and hospitalizations, BY TORI B. POWELL, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/florida-covid-cases-desantis-shut-down/
- E.7 ways this COVID-19 surge is different, by Molly Gamble and Gabrielle Masson, https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/hospital-management-administration/7-ways-this-covid-19-surge-is-different.html?origin=BHRE&utm_source=BHRE&utm_medium=email&utm_content=newsletter&oly_enc_id=6022C5696190I0K
- F.A New Covid Variant Is Taking Hold In Florida, And We’re Not Even A Little Bit Surprised, by Kristen Mae,https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/covid-variant-taking-hold-florida-010010081.html
- G.The delta variant is ‘ripping through the unvaccinated’ and crowding hospitals in Florida, Texas, by Ken Alltucker, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2021/08/04/florida-texas-hospitals-covid-unvaxxed-patients/5452766001/
- H.South Florida hospitals take dire steps as COVID-19 trends worsen, by Christina Vazquez, https://www.local10.com/news/local/2021/07/26/south-florida-hospitals-take-dire-steps-as-covid-19-trends-worsen/
- I.Coronavirus cases rising in school-age Florida children, connection to classroom unknown, by Mahsa Saeidi, https://www.wfla.com/8-on-your-side/investigations/coronavirus-cases-rising-in-school-age-florida-children-connection-to-classroom-unknown/
- J.When delta strikes: Latest coronavirus surges grow faster, hit record heights in Louisiana, Florida, by Fenit Nirappil and Ashley Cusick, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2021/08/03/covid-delta-surge-south/
- K.Kansas City emergency rooms are overwhelmed. Hospitals ask some patients to stay away, BY LISA GUTIERREZ, https://www.kansascity.com/news/coronavirus/article253203288.html
- L.Arkansas reports over 2,800 new COVID cases, 1,230 hospitalizations, https://www.thv11.com/article/news/health/coronavirus/arkansas-covid-icu-beds-delta-variant/91-f026820e-a959-49ac-baa4-20ccf5828a92
- M.Arkansas governor says he regrets banning mask mandates as COVID-19 cases surge in his state: ‘Everything has changed now’, by Oma Seddiq, https://www.businessinsider.com/asa-hutchinson-arkansas-governor-regrets-banning-mask-mandates-covid-surge-2021-8