COVID-19 hospitalizations hit record high as US braces for new surge

The number of Americans hospitalized for COVID-19 reached a record daily high yesterday, as the nation approached the time when a new surge related to Thanksgiving gatherings could start to show.

Stretched hospital capacity affects much of country

Yesterday there were 104,600 people in the hospital for their COVID-19 infections, according to the COVID-19 Tracking Project. An analysis of federal data by the New York Times shows that more than a third of Americans live in areas that are running short of intensive care unit (ICU) beds. The analysis revealed that hospitals serving more than 100 million Americans reported having fewer than 15% of ICU beds still available.

Meanwhile, the federal government has fallen well short of its goal to shore up the country's emergency stockpile of respirator masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE), the Wall Street Journal reported.

Vaccine advisory group takes up Pfizer EUA tomorrow

Tomorrow in an all-day online public meeting, vaccine advisors for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will discuss the emergency use authorization (EUA) application for the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech. FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, MD, told NPR yesterday that he expects the agency to make a decision shortly after the meeting.

Once the first vaccine has been approved, much of the initial 100 million dose supply will go to the first two recommended priority groups, healthcare workers and nursing home residents. For other Americans, the best hope for getting vaccinated by spring or summer relies on vaccines that haven't yet been proven to work, Politico reported. The United States has reserved an additional 600 million doses from other vaccine makers, but their vaccines are still being tested in late-stage trials.

Essential workers are among the groups likely be prioritized in the second tier of people to receive the vaccine, but companies and industry groups who want to be among the first to get COVID-19 vaccine are encountering a patchwork of state plans and confusion over who is defined as essential, Reuters reported. State vaccine distribution plans show broad discrepancies over which groups of workers should be considered essential.

In other US headlines:

  • President-elect Joe Biden yesterday spelled out a three-point plan to address the pandemic during his first 100 days in office, the Washington Post reported. The plan includes mask requirements for federal buildings and interstate travel on trains and busses, distribution of vaccines, and funding for schools that allows them to reopen safely.

  • Negotiations over a coronavirus relief package hit a snag yesterday with a $916 billion proposal from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, according to The Hill. It would include a $600 stimulus check, but a much smaller federal unemployment benefit.

The United States reported 215,586 new COVID-19 cases yesterday, along with 2,534 more deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard. As of this afternoon, the nation's overall total is at 15,285,261 cases, and 287,671 people have died from their infection, according to the group's tracker.

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