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Officials seek options for when hospitals run out of ICU beds


The shortage of hospital beds for coronavirus patients in some areas of the US has officials looking at where they will put people when more come in.

In one Texas city, the federal government is going to turn a hotel into what is called a surge hospital.

In Georgia, the governor said the state is working unceasingly to prevent hospital bed shortages.

The head of a hospital system in hard-hit Miami-Dade County, Florida, told CNN that they plan to convert some regular rooms into ones that can handle the most serious coronavirus patients should the growth in cases continue.

Carlos Migoya said the situation is “very, very tight” at Jackson Health System, but they have stopped doing elective surgeries to help save beds.

“This room is not going to last forever,” if the numbers keep rising, he said.

In Florida there are 54 hospitals that have reached intensive care unit capacity and show zero beds available, according to data released by the Agency for Health Care Administration. Ten of those hospitals are in Miami-Dade County.

Another 40 hospitals show ICUs at 10% available capacity or less, according to the agency’s data.

In South Texas, hospitals in Laredo are full, the city’s health authority, Dr. Victor Trevino, told the city council Tuesday.

A Federal Emergency Management Agency team will arrive this week to convert a hotel to a surge hospital site to treat Covid-19 patients, Interim Fire Chief and Emergency Management Coordinator Ramiro Elizondo said at the council meeting.

The site will provide 106 beds and will help expand the hospital capacity for non-ICU patients, he said.

Officials in Georgia said the state has 417 people with coronavirus in hospitals, over 200 more than Tuesday’s total.

As the number of Covid-19 cases soar, Gov. Brian Kemp said on Twitter his state is “working around the clock to enhance hospital bed surge capacity” and urged residents to wear a mask and practice social distancing.

Kemp has said the state will again turn the large convention center in downtown Atlanta into a potential overflow hospital.

California still seeing record numbers

The country’s most populous state set two more records Wednesday, recording highs for hospitalizations and ICU admissions. There are a total of 6,786 Covid-19 positive hospital patients and 1,907 patients in the ICU in California.

The state also announced 11,126 new cases, the second most it has had.

The largest number of cases is in Los Angeles County, where the county’s public health director warned another stay-at-home order might be possible.

“We can’t take anything off the table — there’s absolutely no certainty of what exactly is going to happen next,” Dr. Barbara Ferrer said.

While another stay-at-home order is “absolutely not” preferable, she explained it’s an option that must be kept on the table if it’s clear the health care system is going to be overwhelmed.

“We have to do everything we can to protect the health care system for everybody,” Dr. Ferrer said.

Spike in cases was ‘inevitable,” Fauci says

With Covid-19 cases still soaring in the US South and Southwest and dozens of states pulling back on reopening plans, public health experts say the end of the pandemic remains out of sight.

While New York and New Jersey were early virus hotspots, California, Florida, Arizona and Texas have become the states to watch, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease doctor.

Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, said Wednesday that “the inevitable happened” after the US tried to reopen and he saw “pictures and photos and films of people at bars with no masks, congregating in crowds.”

The country’s “baseline” was around 20,000 new cases a day when reopening started.

“The problem is, since we started off our baseline so high, as we tried to open up, you saw that there was a wide variation in how that was done,” he said. Cases started to rise, “and now we’re hanging around 60,000. That’s untenable. We’ve got to turn that around, and that’s really the issue we’ve got to address right now.”

As of Tuesday, more than 3.4 million people had been infected, and 38 states reported an increase in the number of new cases from the week before.

On Wednesday, several states took steps to promote the wearing of masks.

Alabama and Montana said they are required in public. The mandate from Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey is part of an amended safer-at-home order her office announced. In Montana, Gov. Steve Bullock said face coverings are mandatory in certain indoor business settings for counties with four or more active Covid-19 cases and in outdoor group settings where more than 50 people gather and social distancing is not possible.

Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, is the latest national chain to require all customers to wear masks. The change is set to begin next week. Walmart joins Starbucks, Best Buy and Costco in requiring shoppers to wear masks.

Educator says coworkers worry about students and teachers dying

An elementary school teacher in California’s Orange County told CNN that her colleagues are extremely concerned after the county Board of Education voted this week to return children to schools without face masks or social distancing.

Denise Bradford, a teacher in the Saddleback Valley Unified School District, told CNN’s Brianna Keilar, “We’re creatures of habit. We like our routines. We miss our kids terribly. We lay awake at night wondering if they’re OK. How horrible is it that one of the things on the list to do is to have a plan for students and teachers dying?”

Bradford said teachers in her district are concerned about the possibility of becoming infected with the virus that has claimed more than 7,000 lives in California and says they cannot return to school until it is safe.

Orange County Supervisor Don Wagner, who was part of the 11-person county Board of Education panel that voted for the school guidelines, told CNN he thinks face masks should be “optional” for children at schools and that it’s a decision “each individual school district needs to make.”

Despite the vote, many of the county’s 28 school districts won’t adhere to the board’s guidance. CNN has reached out to or reviewed information from the districts. Of the districts that responded or posted plans online — more than half — none said it would return children to school without masks or social distancing.

Death toll predictions rise from surge

Before the development of any vaccine, thousands more Americans will die from the virus, an influential model says.

The model from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington is now projecting that 224,000 people will die from the virus by November 1, which is an increase of almost 16,000 from the week before.

That jump is due to skyrocketing cases around the country, particularly in Florida, Texas, Arizona, California, Louisiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah, chair of the IHME Dr. Chris Murray told CNN’s Don Lemon.

On Wednesday, Florida reported 301,810 positive cases across the state, an increase of 10,181 cases from the previous day, according to new numbers released by the Florida Department of Health. A total of 19,334 people are currently hospitalized across the state.

Oklahoma’s governor has Covid-19

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt announced Wednesday he has tested positive for Covid-19, and the state reported a record high number of new cases.

Stitt attended President Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa last month and was spotted in the crowd without a mask, but based on contact tracing, the Oklahoma State Department of Health says the governor did not contract coronavirus at the rally.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health said Wednesday there were 22,813 total cases in the state, up 1,075 from Tuesday. The previous daily record of 993 new cases was set Tuesday. There are currently 561 people hospitalized due to the virus.

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