Hospitals are bracing for another surge of COVID-19 patients. In parts of Texas, COVID-19 hospitalizations have roughly quadrupled in just a few weeks.
"It's not good. It's serious. We're going to need another 200-plus hospital rooms," Mayor Dee Margo said.
In Utah, the state hospital association is warning about rationing care as ICU beds run low.
"We have enough PPE to protect our staff, we just don’t have enough people," Dr. Russel Vinik, chief medical officer at University of Utah Health, said.
The U.S. is now averaging more new COVID-19 cases every day than our previous peak in July. Hospitalizations lag behind cases, but they’re rising and likely to keep going up, too. There’s one thing that doctors are cautiously optimistic about: The latest research shows that compared to the early days, fewer people are dying from COVID-19.
"Overall, we are seeing less sick people and lesser case fatality rate, which is good," Dr. Rohini Sharma, an infectious disease specialist at North Suburban Medical Center, said.
We spoke with two doctors treating hospitalized COVID patients. Dr. Rohini Sharma is an infectious disease specialist in Denver, and Dr. Ben Singer is a pulmonary and critical care specialist in Chicago.
They say now, more patients are younger and have a better chance of surviving the virus. Treatments have also improved.
"I'm really interested in what your experience has been like. And how that was in March and April vs. again now several months later," Newsy's Lindsey Theis said.
"This was an unknown animal to start off with. As soon as the studies came in with more data, there were hundreds of studies from China, from us, from Europe, and that helped us improve on our treatment modalities," Sharma said.
"We've learned new things about how to treat COVID and how not to treat COVID. So avoiding the use of medications like hydroxychloroquine, which at one point may have been thought to be beneficial but clearly are not. We know that steroids like dexamethasone for select patients can play a role in improving their outcomes," Singer said.
The FDA approval of antiviral drug remdesivir, shown to lower the number of days a COVID patient spends in the hospital, is another step, too.
Both doctors warn, though, with new COVID cases and hospitalizations climbing, an uptick in deaths is what comes next. They say it's important to mind the public health guidance we’ve heard all along: Distance, wash your hands and wear a mask.
"Until we have a vaccine, I would say a mask is a poor man's vaccine. Till then," Sharma said.