US healthcare workers fear surging Covid-19 cases could overwhelm hospitals as governors scrambled on Sunday to address big rises in new infections across the country.
The US reported 65,413 new Covid-19 cases on Sunday, a steep drop from the 82,668 cases reported on Saturday, according to the Covid Tracking Project. Deaths dropped to 377 from 885 on Saturday.
Still, state officials were bracing for trouble ahead. New York governor Andrew Cuomo on Sunday said the state was developing a new strategy to find “micro-clusters” of Covid-19 infections. Testing must get more local, he said, pointing to a birthday party at a restaurant on Long Island that turned into 37 cases.
On Sunday, Texas governor Greg Abbott asked for federal permission to use an army hospital to house people sick with non-Covid ailments as hospitals in the El Paso area have seen coronavirus cases spike.
Meanwhile, Illinois on Sunday reported 4,062 new confirmed cases of Covid-19, down from 6,161 on Saturday.
Though treatment for Covid-19 patients has improved, and personal protective equipment is in greater supply, healthcare workers are “terrified” that the pandemic will get worse in the weeks ahead, Kami Kim, an infectious diseases doctor at Tampa General Hospital, said on Sunday.
“Most of the healthcare people I know are pretty worried because as people don’t take appropriate measures we are going to have a lot of cases and we could be overwhelmed again, she said, adding that her hospital is opening a dedicated Covid-19 unit to prepare for a surge.
For people who arrive at overrun hospitals with heart attacks and other conventional emergencies, “it is going to be hard to have them managed well”, she said.
Hospital executives in Michigan are renewing appeals for people to wear masks as the state recorded a new daily record of Covid-19 cases on Saturday. The state will have to consider reimposing restrictions if the case trajectory holds, Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer said in a local television interview on Sunday morning.
“The hospital leaders are getting very concerned,” Ms Whitmer said. “If we get overwhelmed and have hospitals on the verge of being overrun, then we will have to take steps backward.”
President Donald Trump is scheduled to hold a rally in Lansing, Michigan’s capital, on Tuesday. Ms Whitmer called the scheduled rally “a recipe for disaster.”
“We have seen Covid outbreaks as a result of these rallies,” she said. “The president has shown that he can’t even protect himself from getting Covid.”
As cases creep up in densely populated states like New Jersey, coronavirus is also hitting the most rural parts of the country. Alaska reported a record 526 new cases on Sunday.
“Alaska, we need your help, we are on a fast acceleration,” Anne Zink, the state’s chief medical officer, said in a Facebook message on Sunday.