Hospitalizations are rising and have hit a two-month high; deaths are trending upwards

There are now 40 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide, with more than 20 percent of them here in the United States. As President Trump holds outdoor political campaign rallies multiple times a day – with no social distancing or masks required – he repeatedly states that we are “rounding the turn” in regard to the pandemic.

He’s wrong. Case numbers are exploding. Let’s look at the facts.

More than half of the states have seen COVID-19 cases increase by more than 25 percent in the last two weeks alone. At least 10 states reported their highest-ever single-day tallies of new COVID infections this past Friday, and on that day, the United States had its highest one-day total of new cases since July.

As infections rise, so do hospitalizations. A number of medical centers, including the University of Utah Hospital, have run out of ICU beds. It’s just a matter of time before we see new spikes in the number of COVID-19 deaths, as there’s always a time lag between hospitalizations and deaths.

There are a number of reasons why the pandemic is getting worse:

  • Young adults are back at universities after being cooped up at home since March;
  • There’s widespread COVID fatigue; and
  • Too many people are mask deniers.

Mask use now is more important than ever. Wearing a mask should never be a partisan issue.

The virus is winning! Now we are about to enter a perfect storm. Things are about to go from bad to worse as temperatures get colder, forcing more people indoors, where airborne spread is much more likely to lead to infection. With flu season about to start, some experts say we are facing a “twindemic.”

We also have upcoming holidays that will further accelerate cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. Thanksgiving weekend could result in a new surge as young adults return home from campuses where infection rates are high, because many students too frequently ignore unenforceable public health measures.

We are looking at a quarter of a million dead Americans shortly after the upcoming election, which will likely rise to half a million sometime next spring. The death toll will be much higher if we ignore the public health experts.

This may all sound bleak, but there are reasons for hope. Scientists have learned an incredible amount about a novel disease in record time, and we are still learning. Doctors do a much better job of managing COVID-19 patients now than they did at the start of the pandemic, as we learn what treatments work and which ones don’t. Early on it was a trial-and-error approach. Now patient management is typically dictated by a series of scientific studies that support proven treatments. There are also numerous vaccine trials in the U.S. and around the world that offer promise for 2021.

We cannot let our guard down now. We need to push COVID fatigue aside. We cannot afford to ignore our scientists and public health experts. Listen to them! Practice social distancing. Avoid large crowds. Religiously wash your hands, like you did last spring. Also, modify your holiday plans. I urge you to go to and observe their Thanksgiving guidelines.

There have been too many avoidable deaths. The actions of Americans in the months ahead will determine whether we will have more avoidable deaths, or whether we will save lives. There is one proven prevention strategy supported by scientific evidence that works: wear a mask.

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