The United States is at breaking point as the country reports more than a million coronavirus cases within the past week.
It’s an unimaginable figure, and an indictment on the lack of strategy by US President Donald Trump’s administration, which has failed to pull the states into a united approach to tackling the deadly virus.
Case numbers across the US are surging at a rate higher than at any other point in the pandemic, with each state’s varying responses described by the New York Times as a “crazy-quilt virus response”. Last week, all 50 of the country’s states reported an increase in case numbers.
The country’s top infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci said on Wednesday the country needed a “uniform approach” to tackling the coronavirus, rather than “a disjointed” response.
However, hopes of Trump unifying the states in his final months in office are slim.
Fauci told CNN’s Jake Tapper this week the President has not attended a meeting with his own Coronavirus Task Force in “several months”.
Fauci said Vice President Mike Pence continues to attend the meetings and is relaying information to the President.
Across the country, officials are warning that testing labs are reaching full capacity, with one lab manager comparing the situation to “moving chairs around on the Titanic”.
Meanwhile, Dr Scott Atlas, a controversial member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, is facing criticism after he told the people of Michigan to “rise up” against new coronavirus restrictions.
Atlas made the comments after Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced a series of new restrictions to combat a surge in coronavirus cases.
Shortly afterWhitmer’s press conference, Atlas, Trump’s top coronavirus adviser, tweeted: “The only way this stops is if people rise up. You get what you accept.”
“It’s just incredibly reckless, considering everything that has happened, everything that is going on,”Whitmer said on Tuesday.
In October, officials arrested 14 men who had allegedly plotted to kidnapWhitmer and put her on “trial”, accusing her of being a “tyrant” for her measures to control the coronavirus.
Atlas later walked back his comments, saying he was “never talking at all about violence” but he did not delete the original tweet.
In the state of Texas alone more than 1.11 million cases of the virus have been reported, and was the first US state to reach a million cases.
In El Paso in the state’s far west, prison inmates have been recruited to help deal with an overflow of bodies. The nine inmates are temporarily working at the hospital to help relieved exhausted hospital workers at the El Paso County Medical Examiner’s Office, according to authorities. The inmates are helping the staff where there’s more than 100 bodies being housed in permanent and mobile morgues.
“We’re shorthanded,” El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego told KVIA.
“People are really tired; nurses and doctors are tired.”
The outlet reported the inmates were being paid US$2 an hour to help transport the bodies. They were supplied with personal protective equipment for their eight-hour shifts.
In the same city, a nurse described a “horrific” situation at a local hospital, saying dying patients were being rushed through resuscitation, and “only come out in a body bag”.
In a Facebook live video Nurse Lawanna Rivers at the University Medical Centre in El Paso described a “pit” which doctors avoided entering for fear of becoming infected.
“My first day at orientation, I was told that whatever patients go into the pit, they only come out in a body bag,” Rivers said.
Rivers said in the almost hour-long video the patients were being put in the “pit” and medical staff were ordered to try to resuscitate them just three times, before letting the patient die.
“Out of all the Covid assignments I’ve been on, this one here has really left me emotionally scarred,” the travel nurse said. “The facility I’m at has surpassed the one I was at in New York.”
In a statement to KFOX 14 the hospital acknowledged the “difficult physical and emotional toll” the pandemic had taken on health workers but said it “cannot fully verify the events expressed” in the video.
In Los Angeles in California, a sports stadium that’s been transformed into a coronavirus testing site is now testing tens of thousands of residents every day.
Last week, Eric Garcetti, the mayor of Los Angeles, announced the capacity of testing in the city would be expanded to more than 30,000 a day as the city grappled with a new surge in cases.
“This is one of the most precarious and dangerous and fragile moments in our fight against Covid-19,” Garcetti said.
This week, photos showed long lines of people queued waiting for tests.
A new report also found as cases rise across the country that demand for tests was starting to outstrip testing companies’ ability to supply to consumers.
“We’re still far behind where we need to be with testing. And as these cases skyrocket, the need for tests are far outpacing what we have,” Heather Price, the senior director for science policy and regulatory counsel at the Association of American Medical Colleges, told NPR.
While testing shortages were a worldwide issue at the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, in the US tests are now widely available at doctors’ offices, fire stations, drive-through sites and grocery stores, according to the report.
But experts say despite efforts from the federal government, the current level is below what is needed to meet the current crisis, and testing levels are still not broadly available in all parts of the US.
Melissa Miller, who runs a testing lab at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, said she feels like “we’re moving chairs around on the Titanic”.
“We’re trying to, you know, move things around to make things work and get everything in order.
“But we’re on this big ship that’s sinking.”
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