New COVID-19 Hotspots: Is Your Facility Overrun with New Patients?

The news has been flooded with reports of new coronavirus hotspots, including rural areas and southern states that were largely spared during the peak of the pandemic. Many of these states have been slowly reopening their local economies, and now the numbers of confirmed cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are ticking upward. However, it’s not always clear whether these additional cases are due to poor safety standards or an increase in testing.

Let’s find out where the virus is spreading and why these numbers are rising so fast.

The Latest Hotspots

The Sunbelt States and those in the southwest seem to be getting hit the hardest. There are now 29 states across the country with rising numbers of coronavirus patients, but much of the focus has been on Texas, Florida, California, Arizona, and the Carolinas.

Arizona has seen the number of new daily cases triple over the last couple weeks. Texas just saw its worst four-day period on record when it comes to new hospitalizations. Last week, South Carolina and Florida also reported their highest daily numbers of new cases.

Houston is currently one of the hardest-hit cities in the country. It is also a stark reminder of the health inequalities in this country. Testing remains slow in certain neighborhoods, including south Houston, which is home to many communities of color, while testing remains common in north Houston, a predominantly white neighborhood.

It’s important to point out that many of these states are currently in phase two or three of their plans to reopen. In some areas, this means bars, salons, gyms, restaurants, and non-essential retail are now back up and running. These states were also some of the first to reopen in the country, and it’s been over a month since residents have been allowed to leave their homes and return to some semblance of normal life.

Will These Cases Overrun Local Hospitals and Facilities?

As we watch the number of cases rise, two questions on everyone’s mind are, “What’s behind this sudden uptick?” and “Will it lead to hospitals getting overrun as we lose our grip on the spread of the virus, or is it just a sign that more people are getting tested?”

We used our Facebook page “Funny Nurses” to ask nearly two million nurses about the increase in cases.

  • 19% said their facilities are being overrun with new cases
  • 81% said it’s just a sign of increased testing

Many nurses said their states have successfully flattened the curve, but several nurses were quick to say that they are having trouble keeping up with the rise in new cases. Alyssa Lee of Tampa, FL says her hospital is being overrun. She points out that many COVID-19 patients need to be hospitalized for long periods of time, leaving little room for incoming patients. Her facility is admitting more patients than they are able to discharge.

We are seeing similar scenes in Arizona. There are now more patients in the hospital, ICU, and on ventilators than at any point in the state’s history. The state is reporting around 1,300 new cases every day. A recent study from the Kaiser Health Network has linked the uptick in cases to the end of the state’s stay-at-home order back in May. Gov. Doug Ducey recommended social distancing and wearing a mask, but it was not mandatory. This lack of enforcement is likely to blame for the recent rise in cases, but that’s not true of every state.

California was one of the first states to deal with a surge in cases back in March. Many residents and small businesses have been pushing Gov. Gavin Newsom to accelerate the state’s plans even though the state is still seeing around 1,000 new confirmed cases each day. Instead of reversing course on his plans to reopen, Gov. Newsom vigorously defended the continued easing of restrictions across the state.

At a recent press conference, Gov. Newsom said, “There’s a certain point where you have to recognize you can’t be in a permanent state where people are locked away for months and months and months on end.” He is offering a lifeline to local businesses, while recognizing the need for residents to get out of the homes and back to work.

However, health officials in the state are urging caution, citing the recent uptick in cases. Gov. Newsom countered that argument by pointing out testing has increased substantially throughout the state. The number of people testing positive has gone down based on how many people are getting tested. The Governor also adds that California has the resources to properly handle a new surge in cases, so he is going forward with his plans to reopen.

Confusion on Top of Confusion

As you can see, there’s still a lot of back and forth in terms of what’s causing this surge of new cases. It’s not always clear what leads to the spread of the virus. Safety guidelines change from state to state and country to county, making it difficult to track the causes of any increases in cases.

In some areas, churches, manufacturing plants, and even private parties have been linked to sudden upticks, so sources of transmission tend to vary widely across the country. Increased testing will undoubtedly lead to more cases of the virus being recorded, but it’s important to remember that not all these patients will need to be hospitalized. If the local population tends to be older or suffer from high rates of chronic disease, then many of these patients will need to be hospitalized.

Reopening the local economy is not always a recipe for disaster. States need to track the number of new cases and hospitalizations to make sure they can safely reopen. If a new surge were to occur, health facilities need to have the resources to care for these patients.

New York was once the epicenter of the virus, but now it has one of the lowest numbers of cases in the country. The city has been locked down for over three months, but now officials want every resident of NYC to get tested, so they know exactly who has it and who doesn’t.

It’s going to be a while before we have the coronavirus out of our system. Keep this information in mind as your state continues to reopen.

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