By Quentin Fottrell, MarketWatch
AFP via Getty Images
Hospitals await the post-Thanksgiving surge — and the Christmas one is just around the corner.
“After an event, we would expect to see an increase in new cases in one to two weeks, an increase in hospitalizations from two to three weeks, and an increase in bad outcomes from four to six weeks,” Dr. Thomas Russo, the chief of infectious diseases at the University at Buffalo, told WGRZ-TV .
The U.S. has set records for COVID-19–related hospitalizations this month with the number of coronavirus patients currently in hospitals routinely exceeding 109,000 in recent days, and the number of people with the virus in intensive-care units surpassing 21,200.
In South Dakota, for example, ICU wards are running at or above capacity, according to Dr. David Basel, vice president for clinical quality with Avera Medical Group, one of the state’s largest hospital systems.
‘We would expect to see an increase in new cases in one to two weeks, an increase in hospitalizations from two to three weeks, and an increase in bad outcomes from four to six weeks.’
Dr. Thomas Russo, University at Buffalo
Cindy Friedman, chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Traveler’s Health Branch, told a briefing : “We know it’s a hard decision and that people need to have time to prepare, and have discussions with family and friends, and to make these decisions.”
Don’t miss: Advice for those who can’t avoid holiday travel
“It’s a good thing that people have options to prevent infection, and they can take time now before the Christmas holiday,” she said. “We have several weeks to really think about the safest option for them, and their family, which we think is to postpone travel, and then we’ve outlined all the other measures that they can take if they do have to travel.”
Risk factors to consider before attending a gathering include the level of local community spread of COVID-19; exposure during travel; the location and duration of the gathering, and whether it’s indoors; the number of attendees and capacity for physical distancing; and attendees’ preventive behaviors before and during the gathering, such as mask wearing.
Coronavirus Update: U.S. suffers deadliest week from coronavirus since pandemic broke out
The U.S. set a record for COVID-19-related hospitalizations this month with over 109,000 patients, and coronavirus-related intensive-care units surpassing 21,200.
As of Monday, 72.4 million people worldwide had contracted COVID-19 and 1.6 million people had died. The U.S. had 16.3 million cases and 299,193 fatalities, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University. Hospitalizations held below 60,000 during the early wave of the pandemic in the spring.
One million people tested positive for COVID-19 in the U.S. during a six-day period in mid-November. North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Iowa are leading U.S. states by per capita case numbers, according to Raymond James. COVID-19–related hospitalizations are at their highest level since the pandemic began.
Data from the Transportation Security Administration showed that 3 million travelers went through TSA checkpoints over the weekend, the most since March 16, even as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged people not to travel to see family and friends in an effort to try to stem the spread of COVID-19.
Despite public health officials’ recommendations against travel, AAA, formerly known as the American Automobile Association, estimated in mid-October that 50 million people did not plan to take that advice over the Thanksgiving holiday travel period, a five-day stretch from Wednesday, Nov. 25, through Sunday, Nov. 29. That was down from 55 million last year; an estimated 95% traveled by car. AAA used economic forecasting from insights firm IHS Markit.
“People should be very careful and prudent about social gatherings,” said Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who has worked under six presidential administrations.
“You may have to bite the bullet and sacrifice social gatherings unless you’re pretty certain that the people you’re dealing with are not infected, or have very recently tested, or they’re living a lifestyle in which they don’t have any interaction with anybody except you and your family,” he said.
There has been progress on vaccines — which, assuming they work, could eventually bring people back to their place of work. BioNTech SE /zigman2/quotes/214419716/composite BNTX -3.17% and Pfizer /zigman2/quotes/202877789/composite PFE +0.95% said a final analysis of their vaccine candidate showed 95% efficacy, and rolled out the first deliveries on Monday. Meanwhile, Moderna /zigman2/quotes/205619834/composite MRNA -3.76% said its own candidate was 94.5% effective.
A vaccine candidate from AstraZeneca /zigman2/quotes/200304487/composite AZN +1.16% and the University of Oxford is safe and effective and showed an average efficacy of 70% in a pooled analysis of interim data, according to a peer-reviewed study published last week. Efficacy was 62% for trial participants who received two full doses of the experimental vaccine, but increased to 90% among a subgroup of volunteers who received a half dose, then a full dose, according to data published in The Lancet .
Shares of Sanofi /zigman2/quotes/201967021/composite SNY +0.02% fell Friday after the French drug company said the COVID-19 vaccine treatment it is developing with U.K. pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline /zigman2/quotes/209463850/composite GSK -1.77% has been delayed due to insufficient immune response in the elderly.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA -0.89% , S&P 500 Index /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX -1.10% and Nasdaq Composite /zigman2/quotes/210598365/realtime COMP -1.30% rose Monday as investors weighed the first COVID-19 vaccine rollout. Reports of a stimulus-bill compromise between lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle, and progress with vaccines, have helped stocks make gains in recent weeks.
Fauci has expressed optimism that the vaccine news could mean millions of Americans will have access to a vaccine by the year’s end, but he reiterated that there’s unlikely be a rollout for the broader population — beyond frontline workers like medical staff and school teachers, and people with underlying health conditions and older people — until the second quarter.