Amid rising Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations, local US leaders and public health experts worry of a coming surge

With 33 states reporting a rise in new Covid-19 cases and a nationwide uptick in hospitalizations, local officials worry this could be the beginning of the coming surge experts have warned about.

In Colorado, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said Covid-19 cases are rising at a “concerning rate,” while the city’s seven-day average daily case rates are as “high right now as they were at the height of the pandemic back in May.”

The seven-day average of hospitalizations also rose about 37% in a little more than a week, he said during a Monday news conference, and warned residents could soon see tighter Covid-19 restrictions if the city’s numbers continue to trend in the wrong direction.

Officials across the country warn of similar patterns. White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx last week warned the Northeast was seeing “early surggestions” of alarming trends. Kentucky’s governor said recently the state is seeing a third major escalation in infections. In Wisconsin, a field hospital is opening this week in response to a surge of Covid-19 patients — days after the state reported record-high numbers of Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations and daily deaths.

The US is now averaging more than 49,000 new infections daily — up 14% from the previous week, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. And last week, the nation recorded more than 50,000 new cases for at least four days in a row. The last time that happened was in early August.

“I think we’re facing a whole lot of trouble,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNBC on Monday. “We’ve got to turn this around.”

That doesn’t have to mean another lockdown, the infectious disease expert has previously said. Instead, it means more people heeding to safety guidelines like wearing masks and social distancing.

Otherwise, the US could be in for a devastating winter. Researchers from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation project more than 135,000 Americans could die within the next three months.

Healthcare professionals ‘deeply afraid’

Hospitalizations nationwide are also on the rise. At least 10 states have recorded record-high hospitalization numbers since Friday, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project.

Nationwide, there are more than 35,000 people hospitalized with the virus, according to the project.

As emergency physicians begin to see an uptick in severe Covid-19 cases, they’re also growing fearful another surge is on its way, Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency medicine physician with Brown University, said Saturday.

“We are all seeing increasing numbers of Covid-19 patients who are coming into our ERs, who are getting really sick, requiring hospitalization and even intensive care,” Ranney told CNN. “We are all deeply afraid that this is the beginning of that dreaded second wave,” she added.

And that’s as healthcare professionals across the US are still lacking adequate personal protective equipment and testing supplies, she said.

“We’re quite fearful for what we are heading into.”

Tracey Nixon, the chief nursing officer at University of Utah Health told CNN affiliate KUTV last week the hospital system’s intensive care units were at 97% capacity and the surge they’re anticipating “in the next few weeks” will put a strain on staff.

“Our teams are exhausted and under tremendous pressure,” Nixon told the affiliate.

13% increase in child Covid-19 cases in 2 weeks

Meanwhile, more children are also being diagnosed with the virus, an updated report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association shows. The report found a 13% increase in child cases reported from September 24 to October 8 — with more than 77,000 new reported infections.

The report looked at information from health departments of 49 states, New York City, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam. Children represented about 10.7% of Covid-19 cases in the states that reported cases by age, the report said.

The news comes as many schools have returned to in-person instruction and are navigating challenges that come with new infections.

There’s no “one size fits all” to safely return to class during a pandemic, Fauci told CNN. What that process looks like should depend on how widespread infections are in the community and how much surveillance is required, he said.

“When schools are prepared, when they have a plan, when everyone is universally wearing masks, when they’re testing people in a surveillance way to get people who are infected out of the system, (and) they know what to do when they’re confronted with a person a child or older students who gets infected — it can work,” he said.

A vaccine trial on pause

And while the US battles the pandemic ahead of a vaccine, drugmaker Johnson & Johnson announced Monday it paused the advanced clinical trial of its experimental vaccine due to an unexplained illness in one of the volunteers.

“Following our guidelines, the participant’s illness is being reviewed and evaluated by the ENSEMBLE independent Data Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) as well as our internal clinical and safety physicians,” the company said in a statement. ENSEMBLE is the name of the study.

“Adverse events — illnesses, accidents, etc. — even those that are serious, are an expected part of any clinical study, especially large studies.”

The company did not say what the illness was.

This is the second Phase 3 Covid-19 vaccine trial to hit the pause button in the US. AstraZeneca’s vaccine trial was paused last month because of a neurological complication in a volunteer — and while the trial has resumed in other parts of the world, it remains paused in the US while health officials investigate.