New Daily Cases Ebb in Some Upper Midwest States
Midwestern states have seen stubbornly high case loads, but new data shows the virus may be retreating, especially in Illinois. Here’s the latest on Covid-19.,
For weeks, Illinois, like much of the Upper Midwest, has been troubled by a stubbornly high daily load of reported coronavirus cases, leading to climbing numbers of hospitalizations and deaths. But new data is signaling that the virus might be on the verge of retreating.
Illinois is reporting an average of about 2,840 new cases a day, down nearly 16 percent from April 17. Central Illinois, which saw major growth in cases earlier this month, is now improving, according to a New York Times database — especially in Peoria, one of the metropolitan areas where the virus had been spreading the fastest.
“It is great we have seen some abatement in local hot spots,” said Dr. Emily Landon, the chief epidemiologist at the University of Chicago, who has been advising Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, on the state’s pandemic response. Dr. Landon cautioned, though, that other pockets of the state, especially those with low vaccination rates, remained ripe for “a fiery outbreak.”
“I wouldn’t say everybody is out of the woods,” she said.
Indeed, hospitalizations remain high in Illinois and other Great Lakes states like Michigan and Minnesota, putting mounting pressure on health care systems. Hospitalizations in Illinois are up by about 25 percent over the past two weeks, as are hospitalizations in Michigan and Minnesota. In the past two weeks, deaths have risen by 20 percent in Illinois and 48 percent in Michigan.
The surge grew particularly worrisome in Michigan, which continues to lead the nation in daily cases per person but has recorded a 27 percent decline over the past two weeks.
Minnesota has recorded an 8 percent drop in daily new cases in the past two weeks, but a 25 percent increase in hospitalizations.
The case counts surged as variants were starting to spread widely, and states have been racing to vaccinate as many people as possible. More than a quarter of Illinois’s population is now fully vaccinated, and 44 percent of people have received at least one shot. Officials said the recent surge might be burning itself out in part because of the growing number of people who are protected.
“We have seen a beginning of, maybe, a lessening of the rise of cases,” Mr. Pritzker said last week. “I don’t want to predict anything, because this virus is unpredictable. But I think at least in the short term, that seems to be good news.”
Officials in Illinois said that when vaccinations first became widely available, people started taking fewer precautions, even though highly contagious variants were spreading.
“It led to the perfect storm,” said Monica Hendrickson, public health administrator for the Peoria City/County Health Department, who noted that recent cases had been highest among young people, the last to become eligible for the vaccine.
In Michigan, where 40 percent of adults have received at least one vaccine dose, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, has asked the Biden administration for extra doses, but the administration has so far held to its policy of distributing doses by population and not demand.
The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, said at a White House news conference last week that securing extra doses was not the most immediate or practical solution. She said that Michigan — whose metro areas include 15 of the 17 worst outbreaks in the nation — needed to enact shutdown measures to quickly slow the virus’s spread.
The situation in Illinois remains dire. Dr. Michael Cruz, chief operating officer at OSF HealthCare, said on Thursday that about a half-dozen of the hospital system’s medical centers in Illinois were at more than 90 percent of capacity. He said it was too early to say whether the recent decline in new case reports was a “true inflection point.” In Michigan, 24 hospitals hit 90 percent of capacity last week.
“The virus does what the virus does,” Dr. Cruz said. “Let it hang around long enough, it will start mutating.”
NEW DELHI — Twenty patients in critical condition at a Covid-19 hospital in New Delhi died overnight when oxygen supplies ran low, doctors said on Saturday — the third hospital tragedy this week in a country that is reeling from an enormous second wave of infections.
Deep Kumar Baluja, the medical director of the facility, Jaipur Golden Hospital in New Delhi, said that a scheduled delivery of oxygen supplies was seven hours late on Friday. That left the hospital’s reserves nearly depleted and led to lowered pressure in the oxygen lines that were keeping patients alive.
Around midnight, Dr. Baluja said, the patients began to succumb.
“A little after that, the patients died. Almost at midnight,” he said in a telephone interview. “One after the other.”
Despite numerous calls to Delhi government officials late Friday, the hospital had received only half of the oxygen it needed. Hospitals across India are desperately short of oxygen as new coronavirus patients flood in, prompting many big hospitals to appeal on social media for emergency supplies — or to announce that they cannot take new patients.
The Indian government reported more than 344,000 new infections on Saturday, setting a new global record for the third consecutive day, and more than 2,600 deaths from the virus. Yet experts say that those numbers, however staggering, are just a fraction of the real toll.
Millions refuse to even step outside for fear of catching the virus. Accounts from around the country tell of the sick being left to gasp for air as they wait at chaotic hospitals that seem to be buckling under the stress. On Wednesday, at least 22 coronavirus patients died at a hospital in Maharashtra State when a leak cut off their oxygen supply. Two days later, a fire at another hospital in the state left at least 13 Covid-19 patients dead.
The sudden coronavirus surge in India in recent weeks, with an insidious newer variant possibly playing a role, is casting increasing doubt on the country’s official Covid-19 death toll of nearly 200,000.
Interviews from cremation grounds across the country, where the fires never stop, portray an extensive pattern of deaths far exceeding the official figures. Nervous politicians and hospital administrators may be undercounting or overlooking large numbers of dead, analysts say. And grieving families may be hiding Covid connections, adding to the confusion in the enormous nation of 1.4 billion.
“It’s a complete massacre of data,” said Bhramar Mukherjee, an epidemiologist at the University of Michigan who has been following India closely. “From all the modeling we’ve done, we believe the true number of deaths is two to five times what is being reported.”
Months ago, India seemed to be doing remarkably well with the pandemic. After a harsh initial lockdown early last year was eased, the country continued to avoid the frightening case and death counts that sent other big countries into crisis mode, and officials began talking expansively about its success.
Now, countless Indians are turning to social media to send out heartbreaking S.O.S. messages for hospital beds, medicine and oxygen.
At the same time, India’s vaccination campaign is struggling. Less than 10 percent of the population has received even one dose, despite India’s status as the world’s leading vaccine manufacturer.
The situation will have ripple effects across the world, especially for poorer countries: India had planned to ship out millions of doses, but now, given the country’s stark shortfall, exports have essentially been shut down.
Perth, Australia’s fourth largest city, began a three-day lockdown on Saturday after a coronavirus case was discovered outside quarantine.
Health officials believe that the virus passed from a man who left a two-week hotel quarantine on April 17 to a woman he later stayed with in Perth. The man tested positive on Friday after flying to Melbourne, officials said.
The lockdown bars the city’s two million residents from leaving their homes except to buy groceries, exercise, work or seek medical care. It has also forced the cancellation of public events in Perth on Sunday for Anzac Day, which celebrates military veterans of Australia and New Zealand.
New Zealand, which days ago opened a long-awaited travel bubble with Australia, said it had paused flights to and from Western Australia State, of which Perth is the capital. New Zealand’s government said in a statement that the pause was “an example of the type of scenario both countries have planned for.”
Australia has all but eliminated local transmission of the virus, in part by imposing swift, short-term lockdowns anytime new infections are found. In February, when one coronavirus case was detected outside quarantine for the first time in 10 months, Perth was locked down for five days.
The premier of Western Australia, Mark McGowan, said that more than 2,500 people underwent coronavirus tests at public clinics on Friday, and that more than 300 people who are believed to have come into contact with the infected man had been placed into quarantine and were being tested.
No additional infections have been found, Mr. McGowan said, but he urged residents to get tested if they believe they could be at risk.
“We need many more tests to be done,” Mr. McGowan told a news conference on Saturday. “This is crucial to get us the data and certainty to look beyond this lockdown.”
Most adults who test positive for the coronavirus don’t require hospitalization but tend to seek medical care in subsequent months, and two-thirds of those who do are told they have a health condition they did not have before..
These are the findings of a study conducted by investigators from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente, which included some 3,171 members of the Kaiser Permanente Georgia integrated health care system. More than half were Black.
The message for patients is that even for those who have had only mild Covid-19, “it’s possible you may experience new or persistent symptoms months after the initial diagnosis,” said Dr. Alfonso C. Hernandez-Romieu, an infectious disease specialist with the C.D.C., and the study’s lead author. “And it’s important for people to make sure they’re going to their clinicians,” he said, to express their concerns.
“It’s equally important,” he added, “for clinicians to acknowledge that there may be these long-term effects and to really make sure they’re validating patients, treating them with empathy and trying to help them in the best way possible.”
Clinicians need to monitor patients for Covid-19-related complications that are potentially very serious, like blood clots, he said.
The study did not compare patients who tested positive for the coronavirus to patients who did not, so the authors were unable to say whether people who had recovered from mild Covid-19 cases made more doctors’ visits than those who never had the virus.
But two-thirds of the patients who had mild disease sought medical care one to six months after their Covid-19 diagnoses, and about two-thirds of those who sought care were found to have an entirely new condition. The new diagnoses included cough, shortness of breath, heart rate abnormalities, chest or throat pain, and fatigue, “which likely represent ongoing Covid-19 symptoms,” the study said.
Among those more likely to seek medical care were adults 50 and older, women and those with underlying health conditions. Black adults were also slightly more likely than others to seek care. But over all, the authors noted, the number of visits declined over time.
The potential for long-term complications, even after a mild course of disease, underscores the need for prevention measures and vaccination, Dr. Hernandez-Romieu said.
“There is a lot we don’t know about post-Covid conditions,” he said. “Even though a majority of people don’t end up with severe Covid, or end up in the hospital, the potential for long-term health effects is really important.”