Next Course? COVID ‘Surge Superimposed Upon a Surge’

November 24, 2020
Frank Diamond

The CDC warns that it’s possible that the number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 are likely to rise every day for the next 4 to 10 weeks, further straining an already strained healthcare system.

Infection preventionists and other healthcare professionals have good reason to feel overwhelmed these days, as the number of hospitalizations due to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) keeps breaking records this month. According to the COVID Tracking Project over 83,000 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 yesterday, and the record for hospitalizations has been broken every day since November 10.

The infection rate won’t slow down any time soon, especially with Thanksgiving coming this week and people interacting indoors. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that, according to four recognized COVID tracking models, the number of new hospitalizations from COVID-19 are likely to rise every day for the next 4 to 10 weeks. “For December 14, the forecasts estimate 4,600 to 21,000 new COVID-19 hospitalizations per day,” the CDC reports.

We might be about to see a “surge superimposed upon a surge,” says Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the CDC’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. In an interview yesterday with the Washington Post, Fauci urged Americans to stay home for Thanksgiving. Fauci told the Post that “we are in a very steep escalation of cases right now in the mid-fall season. If in fact, you’re in a situation when you do the things that are increasing the risk—the travel, the congregate settings, not wearing masks—the chances are you will see a surge superimposed upon a surge.”

The message might be getting through, at least to some extent, according to a poll by the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index that says that 6 in 10 Americans have decided to scale back their Thanksgiving celebrations. “This greater willingness to turn inward and exercise caution around the holidays comes amid signs of increased trust in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a growing confidence there will soon be a safe and effective vaccine available in the US,” the poll states.

Just how much of a scaling back on Thanksgiving will occur remains to be seen. As Infection Control Today® reports, AAA expects that 55 million Americans will be traveling this holiday weekend, and according to the Transportation Security Administration, more than a million people travelled by air last Friday.

People who do travel for Thanksgiving may feel they are less at risk, even if they do catch COVID. As ICT® has been reporting, those hospitalized with COVID have a much better chance of surviving than those who’d been hospitalized in the spring and summer. Many of the patients these days are younger (and therefore have a better chance of surviving) and physicians have learned how to better treat the disease. However, while better survival rates can be cheered that does nothing to ease the pressure on infection preventionists and others on the frontlines and, in fact, probably adds to it. Many who survive still have to be treated in hospitals.

In North Dakota and Illinois those hospitals are already overburdened, and hospital officials in Utah say that they’ve been forced to ration care.

And while it appears that many Americans have indeed scaled back on their plans for Thanksgiving, heeding the CDC’s recommendation that celebrations should be limited to only household members (people who’ve lived under the same roof for at least the last 14 days), too many have not.

The US could possibly double the number of COVID cases by January 20, according to forecasters at Washington University in St. Louis. Not all of those projected 20 million COVID cases will wind up in the hospital, but many will.

The United States recorded 169,190 confirmed cases of COVID-19 yesterday, while 889 people died of the novel coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University. Overall, in the United States, there have been about 12.5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and about 258,000 people have died from the disease.