There's a light at the end of the tunnel, but coming months will be Covid-19 'worst-case scenario,' expert says

CNN's Don Lemon speaks with Los Angeles County Health Department contact tracer, Levonn Gardner, about what it's like making calls to people to tell them they may have been exposed to Covid-19.

Posted: Dec 4, 2020 7:21 PM
Updated: Dec 4, 2020 7:21 PM

Across the US, preparations are underway to quickly distribute Covid-19 vaccines once authorized, but experts say before that relief occurs, the coming months will be difficult.

What comes next is likely the country's "worst-case scenario in terms of overwhelmed hospitals, in terms of the death count," said emergency medicine physician Dr. Leana Wen.

"There's just so much virus in our communities right now," she said.

Her words echoed a bleak forecast by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield, who warned Wednesday the next three months are going to be "the most difficult in the public health history of this nation."

It's a grim reality reflected in the latest numbers.

  • The US had its highest day of new cases -- 217,664 -- and deaths -- 2,879 -- on Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University.
  • There were a record-setting 100,667 hospitalizations on Thursday, according to the Covid Tracking Project.
  • The US has been adding 1 million new cases every six days for three weeks.
  • Covid-19 was the leading cause of death this week, with 11,820, an average of 1,660 a day, according to the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME).

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More than 14.2 million cases and 277,000 deaths have been recorded in the US, according to Johns Hopkins.

So far for Friday, Johns Hopkins reported there have been 51,094 cases and 655 deaths.

IHME projects 262,000 more people will die over the next four months and daily deaths will peak at more than 2,900 in mid-January.

Vaccinations won't have a big impact on deaths by April 1, but universal mask usage could, the IHME team said in a Friday update.

"Scaling up mask use to 95% can save 66,000 lives by April 1," the team said.

Health care systems under stress

Leading health officials say rising cases will be followed by more hospitalizations that could cripple health care systems across the country. Hospitals and experts all over the US are sounding the alarm.

Marvin O'Quinn, president and chief operating officer of CommonSpirit Health, which runs hospitals in 21 states, told CNN that all its hospitals are getting more patients.

"We are now up to roughly 2,100 positive cases in our hospitals. That's an increase of almost 70% since November 11," O'Quinn said. "We're seeing about 70 to 100 new cases every day."

In Pennsylvania, just under 5,000 people are hospitalized with Covid-19, and two parts of the state are inching closer to staffing shortages, Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said Thursday.

"It is so important to remember that all of us have to be mindful, that we all have a role to play in what is happening in the hospitals right now," Levine said. "You might not need hospital care right now; you might not have a loved one in the hospital right now. But what is happening in our hospitals has a direct impact on you."

In the past two months, the positivity rate in Miami-Dade County, Florida, has spiked 91%, the county's Chief Medical Officer Peter Paige said Friday. Hospitalizations spiked 139%.

Maryland health officials reported 3,792 new Covid-19 cases Friday, breaking the state's previous record for daily cases, said the Department of Health.

This is the first time Maryland has passed 3,000 cases in a day, CNN's tally shows.

Growing acceptance of masks, vaccine

Most US adults -- 72% -- say it bothers them when people in public do not wear masks, according to a survey from the Pew Research Center. Far fewer adults -- 28% -- say it bothers them at least somewhat when stores require customers to wear masks for service.

Results showed 87% say they have worn a mask or face covering "all or most of the time" in stores and businesses over the past month. That includes 91% of Democrats and 81% of Republicans.

Pew also reported that 60% of respondents now say that if a Covid-19 vaccine were available today, they would take it.

Among those not willing to get the vaccine, about half of them -- or 18% of US adults -- say it's possible they could decide to get vaccinated once more information becomes available, but 21% of US adults are "pretty certain" more information will not change their mind.

The survey was conducted between November 18 and 29 and included 12,648 respondents.

The Department of Health and Human Services launched its national ad campaign promoting awareness about forthcoming vaccines with a modest $150,000 ad buy on YouTube.

Fauci: 'Full brunt' of Thanksgiving not yet felt

"The people who make our health care system work are relying on you to do the right thing," she continued.

And hospitals nationwide have yet to see the impacts that Thanksgiving gatherings and travel could bring, with another surge projected in coming weeks.

On NBC's "Today" on Friday, Dr. Anthony Fauci said the "full brunt" of Thanksgiving coronavirus cases won't be clear for another week or two.

"We'll see more of the surge as we get two to three weeks past (and) it butts right up on the Christmas holiday, as people start to travel and shop and congregate," Fauci said.

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he accepted President-elect Joe Biden's offer to serve as his chief medical adviser "right on the spot."

Fauci said he supports as a "good idea" Biden's plan to suggest all Americans wear a mask for the first 100 days of his presidency.

Dr. Celine Gounder, a member of the Biden-Harris transition Covid-19 advisory board, said the incoming administration doesn't plan a national shutdown.

"Shutdowns, or lockdowns, are really not on the table, at least not from the Biden-Harris team. We really view this as restrictions that you dial up or dial down based on the local epidemiology," Gounder said.

New strict measures

California hospitals are treating more than 9,900 Covid-19 patients, the highest level yet, according to data from the state's Health Department. More than 2,200 of those patients are in intensive care units, which is also the highest number since the pandemic's start.

The figure comes as Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a strict regional stay-at-home order. The order will go into effect 48 hours after ICU capacity drops below 15% in one of five regions, Northern California, the Bay Area, Greater Sacramento, the San Joaquin Valley or Southern California.

But six governments in the Bay Area aren't waiting.

"It takes several weeks for new restrictions to slow rising hospitalizations and waiting until only 15% of a region's ICU beds are available is just too late," said San Francisco Health Officer Dr. Tomás Aragon. "Many heavily impacted parts of our region already have less than 15% of ICU beds available, and the time to act is now."

The order will go into place Sunday in the combined city and county of San Francisco, the city of Berkeley and Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties followed by Alameda County on Monday and Marin County on Tuesday. The orders affect roughly 6 million people.

California added 22,018 new Covid-19 cases Friday, topping the state's all-time high for daily positives that was set earlier this week. The total number of confirmed cases is 1.2 million.

Delaware Gov. John Carney announced Thursday a stay-at-home advisory, telling residents to avoid indoor gatherings with anyone outside their households from December 14 through January 11. The state also will require residents to wear cloth face coverings every time they're indoors with someone who isn't in their households, the governor's office said.

"A vaccine is on the way but, make no mistake, we are facing the most difficult few months of this crisis," the governor said in a statement. "I know we're all tired of COVID-19 -- but it's not tired of us."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 697533

Reported Deaths: 13138
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion951321706
Lake50779930
Allen38511669
Hamilton33981404
St. Joseph33279535
Elkhart26810431
Vanderburgh21931393
Tippecanoe21440212
Johnson17325371
Porter17012297
Hendricks16631308
Clark12592190
Madison12223335
Vigo12089243
Monroe11237166
LaPorte10601204
Delaware10241182
Howard9555211
Kosciusko8999112
Hancock7842137
Bartholomew7797152
Warrick7657155
Floyd7501175
Wayne6846196
Grant6724167
Boone647399
Morgan6335137
Dubois6052117
Marshall5709108
Cass5657102
Dearborn564674
Henry5545100
Noble532583
Jackson489469
Shelby474095
Lawrence4305118
Gibson424988
Harrison424870
Montgomery414486
Clinton413153
DeKalb402583
Huntington371880
Whitley371039
Miami369565
Knox363589
Steuben358457
Putnam350560
Wabash344677
Jasper341646
Adams336652
Ripley332368
Jefferson306479
White305954
Daviess287999
Wells283580
Decatur278092
Fayette276562
Greene268685
Posey267333
Scott258553
Clay250744
LaGrange249970
Randolph233379
Washington228429
Spencer226731
Jennings223947
Fountain207245
Sullivan207041
Starke199352
Owen190856
Fulton188939
Jay184829
Carroll184520
Perry178536
Orange175552
Rush169324
Vermillion165343
Franklin164435
Tipton160343
Parke143416
Blackford131730
Pike129634
Pulaski112245
Newton102334
Brown98840
Crawford96814
Benton94513
Martin81915
Warren78315
Switzerland7678
Union69410
Ohio55311
Unassigned0405

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1037600

Reported Deaths: 18827
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1203461345
Cuyahoga1048492040
Hamilton774221164
Montgomery49484984
Summit44494904
Lucas39105757
Butler37437566
Stark31094890
Lorain23775467
Warren23688291
Mahoning20622581
Lake19698360
Clermont19305226
Delaware17783130
Licking15970205
Fairfield15493195
Trumbull15377458
Medina14662255
Greene14484233
Clark13433287
Wood12547182
Portage12144193
Allen11216229
Richland10899197
Miami10455211
Muskingum8639127
Columbiana8478225
Wayne8451209
Pickaway8388120
Tuscarawas8311239
Marion8297135
Erie7415153
Ross6636145
Hancock6595123
Geauga6449146
Ashtabula6355163
Scioto625299
Belmont5518158
Union550847
Lawrence5435102
Huron5229112
Darke5225121
Jefferson5210147
Sandusky5087118
Seneca5048118
Washington5029107
Athens493654
Auglaize470484
Mercer467884
Shelby453289
Knox4332108
Putnam417298
Madison416157
Ashland408986
Fulton402165
Defiance395096
Brown383855
Crawford3819100
Logan369676
Preble367995
Clinton356859
Ottawa351978
Highland344858
Williams317574
Champaign317055
Jackson304451
Guernsey303348
Perry286449
Fayette276348
Morrow272639
Henry261266
Hardin261063
Coshocton255957
Holmes251499
Van Wert237462
Gallia232146
Pike230931
Adams226151
Wyandot224153
Hocking207057
Carroll187746
Paulding167538
Meigs140838
Noble131737
Monroe128441
Morgan105722
Harrison104836
Vinton80913
Unassigned01
Fort Wayne
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Angola
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Huntington
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Fort Wayne
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Lima
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Rain showers continue Saturday evening, as will a few thunderstorms. Overnight, rain will taper off a little as temperatures drop into the mid 40s. On Sunday, rain chances return in late morning and last much of the day. Temperatures max out in the mid 50s and winds will be brisk at times.
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