America's West hunkers down in face of worst spikes of COVID-19 pandemic

Source: Xinhua| 2020-11-23 16:54:30|Editor: huaxia
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by Peter Mertz

DENVER, the United States, Nov. 23 (Xinhua) -- Thousands of Colorado residents awoke Sunday morning receiving an alert: "This region is at severe risk from deadly COVID. Use caution."

"Who else got this alert? Wild times," Denver CBS reporter Michael Abeyta posted on Twitter a minute after the alert.

As a result of the alert, the state's website on coronavirus crashed.

Across the west of the United States, Colorado has set the standard for proactive COVID-19 actions, the first state to stop ski lifts on March 14 and shutter restaurants the following week.

On Thursday, a record 57,000 Colorado residents were tested for the virus, CBS4 reported.

On Friday, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock instituted new restrictions limiting restaurants for outdoor dining, takeout, and delivery. All bars throughout the city remain closed. Retail stores are open but limited to 50 percent capacity. Gyms across the city are open only 10 percent.

Hancock told residents to practice COVID-19 safety measures such as wearing masks and maintaining six-foot social distancing.

"We need everybody to stay home," Hancock said in a statement Friday.

While many Denver residents heeded the mayor's advice, to the south in New Mexico, citizens faced a different crisis.

Across the State of Enchantment, a number of grocery stores were closed over the weekend after multiple employees tested positive for COVID-19, Santa Fe media reported.

Under Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham's public health order, New Mexico businesses with four or more rapid responses in 14 days had to shut down for two weeks.

"New Mexico records deadliest COVID week to date," KOB4 reported on Sunday, as the day saw 2,468 new cases.

A record 33 additional New Mexicans died Sunday, bringing the total death toll to 1,383, and state health officials reported that 845 people are fighting the virus in hospitals.

In Arizona, health authorities on Sunday reported 4,331 new coronavirus cases with seven additional deaths, "just shy of a record," AZCentral news website said.

That put the state documented infections to almost 300,000, and 6,464 deaths, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS).

Arizona authorities said the recent upsurge, which began in October, has been the most rapid rate increase since the first wave hit the state in June and July.

The number of Arizona's confirmed or suspected COVID-19 hospital inpatients increased overnight to 1,932 on Saturday, more than doubling the Nov. 1 figure of 918 and the previous peak on Aug. 4.

"This is serious, it's a little dire right now," said Dr. Francisco Garcia, Pima County chief medical officer.

"Anyone's planning on a big Thanksgiving shindig need to reconsider," Garcia told the media.

In Pima County, confirmed cases jumped 39 percent in a week.

And as is the case throughout the region, hospitals are filling up.

In Arizona, only 11 percent of inpatient beds and 12 percent of ICU beds remain available, according to ADHS statistics released Friday.

To the north of the Grand Canyon State in Utah, hospitals had begun "informal rationing of care," because beds are filling from COVID-19 patients, according to a Sunday article in the Salt Lake City Tribune.

Utah reported 3,395 new cases on Saturday and a record with 551 patients hospitalized.

"What keeps me awake at night is that we have not felt the admissions of the 4,000 caseloads, "said Dr. Sean Callahan, a University of Utah pulmonologist and critical care physician.

"We're going to feel that in the next week or so. But our hospital already is that 100 percent capacity," he told the Tribune.

And in the isolated, sparsely populated state of Montana, 1,084 new cases of COVID-19 were reported on Sunday, another record, with 55,680 total cases this year and 603 deaths from the virus.

In Idaho, more than 1,000 new coronavirus cases were reported on Saturday, including two deaths, taking the state's COVID-19 death toll to 850.

In Nevada, state officials said 10 percent of the state's COVID-19 cases had occurred in the past seven days, causing strict restrictions from the state house.

Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak announced mandatory mask wearing in public at a press conference Sunday evening, as the state's case rate growth is outpacing other states at "wildfire levels" and had surpassed 2,000 deaths.

Sisolak issued a "statewide pause" for at least the next three weeks that goes into effect Tuesday.

Sisolak also noted hospitals are feeling the heat.

"We are on a rapid trajectory that threatens to overwhelm our health care system, our frontline health workers, and your access to care," he said. "So it's time to act."

Nationwide, more than 12.2 million cases have been recorded with more than 256,000 related deaths as of Sunday evening, according to the real-time count kept by Johns Hopkins University. Enditem