Hospitals see record number of Covid-19 patients as cases climb

Nigel Chiwaya and Joe Murphy and Corky Siemaszko
·6 min read

A record number of people have been hospitalized with the coronavirus as projections indicate that the United States could see 20 million cases of Covid-19 by Christmas if the virus keeps infecting people at the current rate.

The number of new cases for the three-week period ending Monday nearly doubled to 1.9 million from the previous 21-day tally of 1.07 million, an NBC News analysis of the latest figures showed. By Nov. 30, if this trend continues, the U.S. could have 13.6 million cases and by Dec. 21, that number at the current rate could climb to 19.9 million.

Hospitalizations across the country have hit an all-time high as well, with 61,964 hospitalizations on Tuesday, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

Pandemic fatigue and rising anger over having to wear masks and practice social distancing, coupled with colder weather driving people indoors where the virus is more easily spread, have created a “perfect storm” for new infections, epidemiologist Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said Tuesday.

Osterholm, who is also on President-elect Joe Biden's Covid-19 task force, said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that he is not surprised the numbers were hitting close to 150,000 at this time. “And what I've been saying for months is -- get ready, we're going to be hitting 200,000 or more cases a day. And we have to get prepared in our hospitals for that very issue.”

While a Pfizer vaccine for Covid-19 has been touted as "extraordinary" by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious diseases expert, it's not going to be rolled out until the end of December.

Until then, Osterholm warned, the U.S. should brace itself for the "darkest weeks of this pandemic for us."

In other coronavirus news:

  • Biden's attempts to launch a new pandemic plan of action is being stymied by President Donald Trump's refusal to concede the election. As a result, Biden's transition team has been prevented from meeting with officials heading Operation Warp Speed and other Trump administration coronavirus efforts.

  • Fauci told MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell that once the federal Food and Drug Administration signs off on the Pfizer vaccine he'd be willing to take it. "If they look at this data and they say this data is solid, let's go ahead and approve it, I promise you, Andrea, I will take the vaccine and I will recommend that my family take the vaccine," he said.

  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who like Trump has been accused of downplaying the pandemic dangers, has hired an Uber driver/Ohio sports blogger who has spread Covid-19 disinformation as a data analyst, The Miami Herald reported. Kyle Lamb, who critics have dismissed as a "crackpot," said he'll be working on coronavirus "research and other projects."

  • Dr. Luciana Borio, one of the doctors named to Biden's new Covid-19 task force, served on Trump's National Security Council as a member of its pandemic response team until Trump disbanded it in 2018.

  • In it's strongest message yet on the subject, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said face masks protect both the wearer and others from the spread of Covid-19.

  • Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, a conservative on the nation's highest court, posed a question about the wearing of face masks while in the midst of a hearing that could decide the fate of Obamacare.

  • Longtime Palestinian politician and peace negotiator Saeb Erekat has died weeks after he was admitted to a hospital in Jerusalem for Covid-19. He was 65 and had served for decades as the Palestinians' senior negotiator in talks with Israel.

  • The University of Albany shut down all in-person classes Tuesday due to a recent campus spike in coronavirus cases. But even before Tuesday’s pause in live lectures, more than 83 percent of instruction was being conducted online at the 3,500-student campus, a school spokesman said.

  • Pittsburgh Steelers star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and three other players are in isolation for five days because they were in contact with a teammate who tested positive Monday, ESPN reported. All will be tested throughout the week to see if they can still play Sunday.

  • Covid-19 isn't just decimating minks in Denmark, it's also killing them on fur farms in Wisconsin and Utah.

On Monday, the U.S. set yet another daily record for new coronavirus cases with 133,819, the data showed. It was the first time the number of Covid-19 cases crossed the 130,000 threshold and the sixth day in a row that the U.S. recorded more than 100,000 cases in a day.

Wisconsin on Tuesday reported 7,073 new cases and 66 deaths overnight, both dismal new records for the state. Ohio also set a new daily record Monday with 6,508 new cases. So did Michigan, with 6,473 new cases Tuesday.

And there has been a surge of new Covid-19 infections in nursing homes after a seven week decline, particularly in the Midwest where the number of deaths is ticking upward, as well, the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living reported Tuesday.

Currently, NBC News numbers show, the U.S. leads the world with 10.2 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus and more than 240,000 deaths.

While 789 deaths were reported Monday, the number of Covid-19 fatalities do not appear to be accelerating at the same pace, according to the data.

While early on in the pandemic, the old and infirm were the likeliest to catch Covid-19, the average age of the person catching the virus has become younger, experts have said. Plus, more aggressive testing is catching infections sooner, and treatments have become better.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine -- a research group the Trump administration once relied on -- released a "best case" scenario in September which projected there would be anywhere from 257,286 to 327,775 COVID-19 fatalities in the U.S. by Jan. 1.

Back then, the potential Covid-19 vaccine that the drug company Pfizer announced Monday was considered to be far from happening.

“I'm obviously very pleased to see that we have, now, evidence that this vaccine approach can work,” Osterholm said.

But Osterholm cautioned there are still a number of unanswered questions, such as just “how long this vaccine will work.”