As the United States faces what one top health official called “the most concerning and most deadly phase” of a pandemic that has already claimed at least 230,000 American lives, record numbers of coronavirus-related hospitalizations are forcing doctors in rural states to get creative. Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that people who are in isolation after testing positive can still cast ballots in person.
Here are the latest developments:
- White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx pleaded with top administration officials for “much more aggressive action” and warned that the United States is entering the most dangerous stage of the pandemic yet in a Monday report obtained by The Washington Post.
- A new study from Duke University shows that rich countries have already snapped up billions of doses of potential coronavirus vaccines, which could mean that poor countries have to wait years before they can vaccinate their full population.
- Intensive care units across Europe are filling rapidly, with Belgium at risk of hitting its breaking point by the end of the week.
- President Trump suggested at a Sunday campaign rally that he might fire Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert. But he doesn’t actually have the power to do that: Fauci is not a political appointee and his job is protected by federal regulations.
- Americans are leaving the country in record numbers amid the pandemic.
- A report from the CDC found pregnant women have a heightened risk of death and severe illness from the coronavirus, though the overall risk remains relatively small.
As the presidential election collides with a global pandemic, the CDC says that people who are sick with the coronavirus can still vote in person on Tuesday.
In newly-updated guidance published Sunday, the agency says that voters who have tested positive or may have been exposed to the coronavirus should follow the standard advice to wear a mask, stay at least six feet away from others and sanitize their hands before and after voting. “You should also let poll workers know that you are sick or in quarantine when you arrive at the polling location,” the CDC’s website states.
For tens of thousands of Americans, that may be the only option: People who received their test results in the past few days missed the cutoff to request an absentee ballot in most states, and getting an exemption typically requires surmounting arduous logistical hurdles, as The Post previously reported. But the prospect of casting a ballot alongside someone who’s sick is unlikely to defuse the tension surrounding mask-wearing at polling places — something that remains optional in multiple states.
While turnout numbers and exit polls consume much of the national attention, the steady rise of new infections across the country shows no sign of abating. The United States reported more than 86,000 new coronavirus cases on Monday, pushing the total count to nearly 9.3 million, according to data tracked by The Post. Twelve states — Arkansas, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming — recorded record numbers of hospitalizations.
Rural areas are feeling the strain. In Utah, overwhelmed hospitals are repurposing pediatric beds for adult patients, and plan to soon start bringing in doctors who don’t typically work in hospitals, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
“We’re asking people to do things that they trained for, maybe when they were a resident, but they haven’t done in three years,” Russell Vinik, chief medical operations officer at University of Utah Health, told the paper on Monday.