Nationwide surge in Covid-19 cases has officials planning new restrictions ahead of Thanksgiving

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With US coronavirus cases and hospitalizations surging to new heights and experts imploring people to stay home for Thanksgiving, officials across the country are preparing new rules and other steps to help cope with the spiraling pandemic.

In Texas’ El Paso County, where the National Guard has been deployed to help morgues and mortuaries handle a surge in deaths, a county judge said Tuesday he will soon issue a new curfew order to help stem infection spread.

In New York, officials on Staten Island are reopening an emergency Covid-19 patient facility that had 200 patients in the spring, this time to help handle hospitalization levels that have nearly tripled on the island in the past three weeks, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

And Los Angeles County is preparing to announce a “targeted safer-at-home” order this week that would residents leave home only for essential work and services for three weeks, county health director Barbara Ferrer said Monday.

That comes after the county recorded its highest one-day number of new Covid-19 infections — more than 6,100 on Monday.

“We’ve never seen a rate of increase as high as what we’ve just seen,” Ferrer said. “We have such a high rate of transmission and there’s so many people that are infected at this point, it will take a lot of work to get us back down.

This comes as the US has reported more than 3.2 million infections since the start of November — the most reported in a single month.

The average number of daily new infections across a week reached more than 196,000 on Monday — the highest on record.

Hospitalizations are at harrowing highs. More than 85,800 Covid-19 patients were in US hospitals Monday — the 14th straight day this count set a pandemic record, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

Hospital systems around the country have been warning their staffing and ICU bed capacity are being stretched thin. Pennsylvania’s top health official warned Monday the state could run out of ICU beds within a week.

In Minneapolis, the director of hospital medicine at Hennepin County Medical Center tearfully told CNN about caring for five Covid-19 patients the last time she worked. Two were sent to hospice care, and another — a woman in her 80s — died as her husband, also a patient, watched, she said.

“I don’t think you can describe how that feels to us as caretakers, to have to see that kind of suffering from patients,” Dr. Shirlee Xie said Tuesday.

While the hospital can add beds and equipment, “we can’t create doctors … we can’t create nurses to take care of patients,” she said. ” … I think we’re all just really, really scared of what’s to come.”

Covid-19 deaths are rising: The country’s average number of daily deaths across a week hit 1,529 Monday — the highest average since May 11. More than 257,900 people have died in the US since the pandemic’s start — more than any other country by far.

Expert: Safest thing to do this week is stay home

Things will get worse in the coming weeks, before they begin getting better with the help of potential vaccines, experts have cautioned.

Millions are traveling for Thanksgiving, despite the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommending against it.

But 61% of Americans did alter their Thanksgiving plans in some way because of rising Covid-19 cases, according to poll results released Tuesday by Axios-Ipsos.

The most common changes reported were deciding to see only immediate household members, and having a smaller dinner than originally planned, according to the poll, which was based on a nationally representative sample of 1,002 US adults and conducted November 20-23.

About 9% said they no longer plan to celebrate the holiday at all.

28% increase in child cases over 2 weeks

It’s not just adults getting infected at rapidly rising rates.

There were more than 256,000 new Covid-19 cases reported in children between November 5 and November 19, according to a joint report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association.

That means as of November 19, nearly 1.2 million children had tested positive for the virus since the pandemic’s start — representing nearly 12% of all Covid-19 cases in states that report infections by age. The numbers in the report come from 49 states, New York City, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam.

The report comes as more leaders across the country have begun shutting down schools amid case surges.

The Metro Nashville Public School district announced Monday schools will return from Thanksgiving break to all-virtual learning, and will remain that way for the rest of the semester.

“Our transmission rate, new cases per 100,000 residents, and 7-day positivity rate are at their highest points in months, and the situation may only be getting worse,” Director of Schools Dr. Adrienne Battle said in a statement.

“This is a serious and dramatic public health emergency that requires us all to renew our vigilance and take the safety precautions necessary to keep ourselves, our families, our friends, and those we may encounter safe through the wearing of masks, social distancing, and avoidance of large — especially indoor — gatherings whenever possible.”

And New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last week public school buildings would close out of an “abundance of caution” after the city’s 7-day average reached the 3% positive testing rate threshold.

Also last week, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear issued an executive order halting in-person learning at K-12 public and private schools starting this week. He also called for middle and high school students to continue remote learning until at least January 4, while it would allow for elementary schools to reopen December 7 as long as the school isn’t in a “Red Zone” county — something that’s determined by the state’s health department standards and adheres to other state guidance.

On Friday, the state’s attorney general announced he would join a federal lawsuit against the order, arguing it is unconstitutional because it would prevent religious organizations from providing private education.

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