World COVID-19 News: America Virus Cases Rising, California Shuts, South Korean New Surge, Europe Nursing Homes Being Hit, Italy Deaths Escalating
World COVID-19 News
: The world is witnessing an unprecedented health crisis never witnessed in the last few decades. With daily new COVID-19 infections surpassing 650,000 day and daily global death rates from COVID-19 exceeding an average of 12,000 per day with rates expected to rise exponentially the next few weeks, public healthcare systems in many countries are about to collapse. It is apparent that the WHO or World Health Organization has failed in every aspects of its duties to curtail this crisis from day one yet no punitive measures have been taken against the key executives on the board.
As of Monday, the total number of global COVID-19 infections have reached more than 67.3 million and the total number of global deaths arising from COVID-19 has reached more than 1.54 million (Source: Worldometer). It is estimated that there are more than 380,000 patients across the world in ICU wards that are experiencing severe conditions of the disease and are fighting for their lives at this very moment and almost another 540,000 more hospitalized but are in moderate conditions. All these figures are expected to rise exponentially in the next few weeks and 2021 is expected to be a far worst year than 2020.
America COVID-19 Cases Rising
COVID-19 Cases across the United States continue to rise as the country moves deeper into a holiday season when eagerly anticipated gatherings of family and friends could push the numbers even higher and overwhelm hospitals.
Alarmingly new daily high of nearly 230,000 additional confirmed COVID-19 cases was reported nationwide Friday, eclipsing the previous high mark of 217,000 cases set the day before.
Also the seven-day rolling average of deaths attributable to COVID-19 in the U.S. passed 2,000 for the first time since spring, rising to 2,011. Two weeks ago, the seven-day average was 1,448. There were 2,607 deaths reported in the U.S. on Friday.
The Johns Hopkins COVID-19 monitoring team had previously reported Wednesday daily COVID-19 deaths at 3,157. That was later updated to 2,804 due to a change in numbers from Nevada, a spokeswoman said Saturday.
Most of America saw surging numbers in the week after Thanksgiving, when millions of Americans disregarded warnings to stay home and celebrate only with members of their household.
The top public health official in Arizona adopted a harsh tone as she reported the state's latest case numbers, a near-record of nearly 6,800 new infections, telling individuals to wear masks around anyone outside their household, "even those you know and trust."
Dr Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, said, "We must act as though anyone we are around may be infected."
The state’s intensive-care units are experiencing caseloads not seen since the summer, when the state had one of the worst outbreaks in the world. Just 8% of ICU beds and 10% of all inpatient beds were unoccupied Friday, according to state data.
Health officials issued bleak warnings about the potential for severe overcrowding, fearing that Thanksgiving gatherings seeded new outbreaks that are not yet showing in daily case counts. It takes sever
al days after someone is exposed to develop symptoms, and several more to get test results. Eventually, more severe cases will require hospitalization.
Dr Mandy Cohen, North Carolina's health secretary said, "In less than a week, we went from exceeding 5,000 new cases reported in one day to exceeding 6,000. This is very worrisome."
In the city of St. Louis, two children's hospitals opened their doors to adult patients without COVID-19 as medical centers in the region fill up, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Mayor Lyda Krewson said the city has reopened a temporary morgue. Area hospitals are at about 82% capacity for in-patient beds and 81% capacity for ICU beds.
In the state of Idaho, the National Guard helped direct people and traffic at a Boise urgent care and family practice clinic converted to a facility for people with COVID-19 symptoms. Health officials say Idaho's attempt to hold the COVID-19 spread in check is failing.
Meanwhile hospitals are struggling not only with the increase in patients but with their own staff as health workers contract COVID-19 themselves or quit under the pressure of caring for so many infectious patients.
Dr Adnan Munkarah, executive vice president and chief clinical officer for Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, "We continue to be concerned about the potential implications of the travel we have seen in the past week with Thanksgiving, as well as social gathering related to the holidays."
Dr Munkarah said, “The health system currently has 576 employees out because they have tested positive, have pending tests or are quarantined because of close contact, up from 378 a week ago.”
California Enters New Lockdown
Authorities from the California Department of Public Health said on Saturday that the intensive care unit capacity in Southern California and Central Valley hospitals had fallen below a 15% threshold that triggers the new measures, which include strict closures for businesses and a ban on gathering with anyone outside of your own household. The new measures will take effect Sunday evening and remain in place for at least three weeks, meaning the lockdown will cover the Christmas holiday.
Most of the state is on the brink of the same restrictions. Some counties have opted to impose them even before the mandate kicks in, including five San Francisco Bay Area counties where the measures also take effect starting Sunday.
As a result of the new lockdown looming, many rushed out to supermarkets Saturday and lined up outside salons to squeeze in a haircut before the orders kicked in.
California Governor Gavin Newsom announced the new plan Thursday. It is the most restrictive order since he imposed the country's first statewide stay-at-home rule in March. But the situation is bleaker than in March.
Dr Eric McDonald, the medical director for San Diego County, told reporters Saturday, "The risk of contracting COVID in the community now is higher now than it has ever been. He and other officials urged the public to bear down, heed the rules and help the state get through the latest and worst wave of cases the state has seen.
The state of California has tallied a staggering total of 1.3 million COVID-19 cases since the pandemic started, setting a new daily record on Friday when 25,068 confirmed cases were recorded.
The soon to be implemented new order divides the state into five regions and uses ICU capacity as the trigger for closures.
The new measures bar all on-site restaurant dining and close hair and nail salons, movie theaters and many other businesses, as well as museums and playgrounds. It says people may not congregate with anyone outside their household and must always wear masks when they go outside.
With the new order, schools that are currently open can continue to provide in-person instruction; retailers including supermarkets and shopping centers can operate with just 20% customer capacity.
It was reported that the 11-county Southern California region, which includes the cities of Los Angeles and San Diego, had only 12.5% of its ICU beds available, the California Department of Public Health reported Saturday. The figure was 8.6% for the San Joaquin Valley region, composed of a dozen counties in the agricultural Central Valley and rural areas of the Sierra Nevada. Together the two regions are home to more than half of California's population of 40 million.
Dr Salvador Sandoval, public health officer for the Central Valley city of Merced said, "We are at a point where surging cases and hospitalizations are not letting up. I can't emphasize this enough everyone must take personal steps to protect themselves and protect others."
Also the other three regions Greater Sacramento, Northern California and San Francisco Bay Areawere all around 21% capacity.
However health officers in five of the Bay Area's 11 counties didn't wait. On Friday, they adopted the state's stay-at-home order. The changes begin to take effect Sunday night in San Francisco, Santa Clara, Marin, Alameda and Contra Costa counties, as well as the city of Berkeley.
Contra Costa Health Officer Dr Chris Farnitano said, "We don't think we can wait for the state's new restrictions to go into effect. This is an emergency."
San Francisco Mayor London Breed said, "Our biggest fear all along that we won't have a bed for you or your mother or your grandmother or grandfather when they get sick is the reality we'll be facing unless we slow the spread."
The new Bay Area order will last at least through Jan. 4, a week longer than the state's timeline, and came as the state recorded another daily record number of new cases with 22,018. Hospitalizations topped 9,000 for first time, and ICU patients were at a record 2,152.
Sadly, the new shutdowns were a gut-wrenching move for small businesses that have struggled to survive over nearly a year in which they were repeatedly ordered to close, then allowed to reopen but with complex safety precautions.
The exponential rise in COVID-19 infections that began in October is being blamed largely on people ignoring safety measures and socializing with others.
Health Officer from Berkeley, Lisa Hernandez said people should not meet in person with anyone they don't live with, "even in a small group, and even outdoors with precautions."
She added, "If you have a social bubble, it is now popped. Do not let this be the last holiday with your family."
It was reported that in the inland Central Valley, Fresno County had just 10 of its 150 ICU beds available. Health officials described a grim picture with hospitals struggling to stay staffed because of coronavirus infections and exposures. One hospital is holding ICU patients in the emergency department until beds open up, Emergency Medical Services Director Daniel Lynch said Friday.
Fresno county has requested help from the state with staffing for a couple of weeks. But so far only one or two additional workers have shown up at three local hospitals as the whole state struggles with staffing.
South Korea Starts To See New Surges In South Regions
The South Korean authorities have raised its COVID-19 alert to the second-highest level in Seoul and surrounding areas Sunday as authorities struggle to contain a fresh outbreak.
South Korea largely brought the virus under control with a "trace, test and treat" approach, but in recent weeks new infections have jumped from around 100 a day to more than 500.
The country confirmed 631 new cases on Sunday the highest in nine months with the majority in the greater Seoul region, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.
Although by global standards the figure remains low, the new surge has alarmed authorities, who have tightened social distancing measures.
Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said Sunday, "We are facing the biggest crisis in our fight against COVID-19."
Accordingly, all gatherings of more than 50 people will be banned and professional sports will be held behind closed doors with no spectators.
All Cafes will continue to serve only takeaways, while restaurants must close by 9 pm, with only deliveries permitted afterwards.
The new tightened measures will be in place until the end of the year, Chung said.
This Sunday's figures take the total number of cases in the country to more than 37,000.
The country endured one of the worst early COVID-19 outbreaks outside mainland China, but never imposed the kind of lockdowns ordered in much of Europe and other parts of the world.
South Korea has previously been held up as a model of how to combat the virus, and the public has largely followed social distancing and other rules, such as wearing face masks.
Nursing Homes In Europe Battling COVID-19 Surges
It has been reported that mortuary workers are again busy around-the-clock in nursing homes and hospices across Europe, amid outbreaks that this time are causing havoc mostly in facilities spared during the spring. In the U.S., patients in nursing homes and long-term care facilities and those who care for them have accounted for a staggering 39% of the country's 281,000 coronavirus deaths.
The sudden surge in Europe is happening despite the retaining wall of measures erected since the spring, including facilities tailored only for residents with coronavirus. It's also pitching authorities and elder care professionals into a race against the clock before mass vaccinations can begin.
In response, Portugal has deployed military units to train nursing home staff in disinfection. In France, where at least 5,000 institutionalized elderly have died in the past month, and in Germany and Italy, where the summer respite has been followed by an upward turn since September, visits by relatives to nursing homes are being restricted again or banned altogether.
Numerous countries are ramping up screening of workers and residents, trying to prevent spread by asymptomatic virus carriers. The strategy has helped Belgium reduce nursing homes deaths from 63% of all COVID-19 fatalities before mid-June to 39% at the end of November.
However in Spain, where the pandemic has ignited a polarized debate on the country's ability to care for Europe's fastest-aging society, nursing home coronavirus deaths have been climbing for two months. They now make up roughly half of all new daily fatalities, a similar share as in March and April.
Daily new infections are also disproportionate in the homes ie 13 cases inside for every one outside.
Also there is reason for hope, however, as Britain became the first country in the world to authorize a rigorously tested COVID-19 vaccine last week, and could begin dispensing it within days, prioritizing nursing home residents and those who care for them, followed by other elderly and health care workers. Nursing homes are also at or near the top of the list for vaccines in the U.S., Spain and many other European countries.
Miguel Vázquez, head of Madrid's Pladigmare association of residents' relatives said, "It's a sensible, justified and logical measure to prioritize nursing homes, after a ‘shameful’ death toll and a record of repeating mistakes not doing so would be a deliberate death sentence."
Certian things have improved since the spring. Care workers have learned to make the best use of protective equipment and tests, which are no longer in such short supply. There's a better grasp of what's going on inside most facilities, and experts have learned how COVID-19 affects the elderly, with symptoms such as diarrhea and rashes that had been overlooked.
Dr José Augusto García Navarro, head of Spain's Society for Geriatrics and Gerontology told media, "It really is a chameleon disease that fools us all,"
Dr García Navarro said that one of the gravest mistakes in the early days was to cloister the elderly in damaging isolation, leading to loss of mobility, insomnia, malnourishment, depression and other ailments that affected and even killed many.
He said, "It is paramount to guarantee physio, occupational and psychological therapies for the infected. That didn't happen during the first wave and is not happening as it should during the second one."
A new initiative in Spain is trying to remedy that with facilities for recovering virus patients who, while remaining contagious, have nowhere to isolate or keep active. They come from their own homes or from the many small care facilities that have no way to separate residents.
A recent study of blood samples in all Madrid nursing homes showed that 53% of the 55,000 residents live in facilities where more than half of residents have developed antibodies.
Across the continent, infections often shoot up to dozens or even over 100 in just a matter of 48 hours.
It was reported that in Spain, the biggest surges of cases and deaths are now in the southern Andalucía and central Castilla León regions that dodged the worst during the spring. In neighboring France, infections are now more spread out than during the spring, when they concentrated in hot spots.
Sadly in Berlin, where 14 people recently died of coronavirus in a nursing home of 90 residents, city officials said strict rules were not being applied.
Dr García Navarro said most of the affected facilities in Spain are trying to control the virus with staff shortages as care workers fall sick. In a few cases, he said, "they are still not complying with safety protocols."
In a new report into how thousands were abandoned in nursing homes, many without medical treatment, in Madrid and Barcelona in the spring, Amnesty International said this week that some of the same problems still exist, including health protocols that recommend prioritizing the young over the elderly.
Basically bureaucracy and mismanagement have also played a role. An internal Spanish government analysis seen by media lists 30 main errors that led to the deaths of over 20,000 elderly patients with COVID-19 before mid-May. But its recommendations are still being revised with regional officials, and some have not been implemented.
COVID-19 Death Toll In Italy Surpasses 60,000
According to an official toll published Sunday, more than 60,000 people have died from COVID-19 in Italy.
The country was the first European country to be hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis and Italy has recorded 60,078 deaths from 1,728,878 infections, the health ministry reported.
Even with all the steps the government has taken to curb the latest outbreak and care for the sick, hundreds of individuals are dying daily.
Italy recorded a record 993 deaths on Thursday, the highest toll since the epidemic erupted in the first months of the year.
Italy is suffering from one of the world's worst tolls in Europe and the world with one death for 1,000 inhabitants,
Italy’s mortality rate, or the ratio of deaths to infections, stands at 3.47 percent. Only Britain has a higher rate in Europe with 3.55 percent.
Interestingly by comparison, Spain's rate is 2.75 percent and France is at 2.35 percent.
Health Minister Roberto Speranza warned against easing steps taken to curb the virus during the holiday season.
Speranza told media, "If we drop our guard, we run the risk of finding ourselves in January and February facing a new infection surge and that we cannot allow."
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Thursday outlined a set of restrictive measures to be put in place around Christmas.
The prime minister announced a ban on movements between regions from December 21 until January 6, including for Italians who wanted to spend time in their second homes. Also there is a ban on moving from one town to another for 25-26 December as well as on January 1.
A new curfew from 10:00 pm until 5:00 am remains in place, with it lasting until 7:00 am on New Year's Eve.
All ski slopes and mechanical lifts are to remain closed until January 7.
COVID-19 surges are being reported across the world from the United States, Canada, South America, Europe, India, South-East Asia, Africa etc. The situation is expected to worsen the next few months and it is being doubted that even the COVID-19 vaccines even if effective can stop the accelerating pandemic in time.
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