The number of people now hospitalized for Covid-19 in the U.S. has jumped 46% since the beginning of October, with a 12% rise in the last week alone, according to data from the Covid Tracking Project.
Some 45,045 people are hospitalized across the U.S., a high not seen since mid-August. Between Oct. 1 and Oct. 28, hospitalizations have more than doubled in North Dakota, Ohio, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. For the same time period, hospitalizations are up 77% in both Texas and New York.
A number of factors are fueling the virus’s spread across the U.S.
More rural communities that evaded surges in cases in the early months of the pandemic have been hit this fall.
The U.S. reported nearly 79,000 new coronavirus cases for Wednesday, the second day in a row the total has come in over 70,000, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. In total, the nation has recorded more than 8.9 million confirmed coronavirus cases.
Illinois reported more than 6,100 new cases for Wednesday, just below a record set Saturday. Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Virginia also reported totals that were the second-highest since the pandemic began, according to Johns Hopkins data.
The peaks in hospitalizations for earlier surges across the U.S. was about 58,000 people. The U.S. had a record number of reported cases on Wednesday, and typically Thursday through Saturday are peak days of the week, said Jeffrey Shaman, professor of environmental sciences at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.
“This is the fall surge we have been worried about—we’ve had record high numbers of cases reported, and hospitalizations are beginning to climb,” said Dr. Shaman. “As the weather gets colder, drier and with less sunlight, people spend more time indoors and the virus may remain viable longer once expelled from an infectious host.”
“I think this could be a very rough fall through winter,” he said.
The increases in cases and hospitalizations are pushing some states and cities to step up restrictions on business, social and schooling activities.
Nearly the entire state of Illinois has reintroduced mitigation efforts to stop the resurgence, with eight of the state’s 11 regions enforcing increased limitations for business, dining and social gatherings. Starting on Friday and in response to a growing positivity rate, Chicago restaurants will suspend indoor dining at the city’s restaurants and limit the size of gatherings to 25 people.
In Denver, where the positivity rate is now over 7%, local officials said this week that restaurants and places of worship will be limited to 25% capacity, with similar limitations on workplaces and retail establishments. Denver public schools are also rolling back in-person learning for some elementary-age students.
This week, Idaho’s Gov. Brad Little signed an order limiting the size of gatherings and mandating the use of facial coverings in long-term care facilities. And new restrictions are expected to be announced on Friday for Rhode Island, according to Gov. Gina Raimondo.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said Thursday the rate of spread of Covid-19 is out of control in Wisconsin. He told CNN that intensive-care units throughout the state are at near capacity, and in the past week several patients have been accepted at an alternate care facility that was built earlier in the year for extra capacity.
Lisa M. Lee, who specializes in infectious-disease epidemiology and public-health ethics at Virginia Tech, said there is more reason to be worried now than in March, as people move inside and pandemic and prevention fatigue set in. People are starting to see the effects of isolation on their mental health, she said.
“A lot of things are coming to convergence here, and they are not good,” said Dr. Lee. Without taking really painful short-term measures to knock out the spread, she said, the U.S. will be “dealing with this virus waxing and waning.”