COVID-19 hospitalizations in U.S. surge to record

There were more than 59,000 COVID-19 patients in hospitals across the U.S. on Monday, the country’s highest number ever since the pandemic began. That’s according to a Reuters tally. The number of Americans currently hospitalized with COVID-19 has surged around 73% over the past 30 days – surpassing the previous record set on July 22. Hospitalizations are a key metric of how the pandemic is progressing because, unlike case counts, they are not influenced by the number of tests performed. Texas reported the highest number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients on Monday as officials in the county of El Paso called in temporary refrigerated morgue trailers to contend with the surge. But the Midwest remains the hardest-hit region based on most cases per capita. North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum announced Monday evening that state hospitals were at 100% capacity. Drugmaker Pfizer provided some hope with an announcement of successful late-stage tests of its vaccine. Experts are encouraged by the preliminary results, but are awaiting full trial data. Dr. Peter Hotez, the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College and a professor of pediatrics and molecular virology and microbiology is cautiously optimistic. "It's always problematic to try to understand what's actually happening just by looking at a company press release. The information it contains looks promising. I don't think we know anything, though, about how it protects against severe disease, severe illness, and that would be good to know. And hopefully the FDA will feel comfortable beginning to release the vaccine to the public. We clearly need vaccines because we have not had a national containment strategy for COVID-19 all year." Despite hopes for a new vaccine, authorities fear that infections and fatalities will continue to rise. This as new infections exceeded 100,000 for the sixth consecutive day. Deaths over the week to Nov. 10 increased 15%, or more than 6,600 people, over the previous week. That was the highest one-week total since mid-August. Worryingly for officials, health experts say the death toll tends to spike four to six weeks after a surge in infections.