America in chaos as ‘dark winter’ arrives

 

For months, health experts have been warning Americans to brace themselves for a dark and deadly winter.

And their predictions were correct - with the US notching up a record number of coronavirus cases in recent weeks and thousands of daily deaths.

A tally by Johns Hopkins University showed the world's worst-hit country - which has seen a dramatic virus resurgence in recent weeks - reached nearly 230,000 new infections and 2,527 COVID-related deaths on Saturday alone.

For two weeks, the US has regularly topped 2000 deaths per day, as it had in the spring at the height of the first wave of the country's outbreak.

The overwhelming number of cases and deaths has left many in America's health system broken.

"I think we're past the breaking point," Dr Adolphe Edward, CEO of El Centro Regional Medical Center in Southern California, told CNN .

"The staff is here, but they're broken.

"The resiliency starts to break down at some point, regardless of how much I know that this team is willing to do."

Dr Edward said the hospital had two beds left in intensive care, after that patients would be cared for in a pop-up field hospital, built in the carpark.

"I might really be back in a war zone," he said, comparing the field hospital to his time serving in the US military in the Middle East. "We're at war against COVID."

US health officials warned of a surge after millions of Americans travelled to celebrate last week's Thanksgiving holiday despite pleas from authorities to stay home.

The United States is expected to give a green light to vaccines later this month but it will be months before any substantial section of the general population will be vaccinated.

Health officials continue to call for Americans to wear masks however many refuse to embrace the measure, which has been proved to decrease the risk of coronavirus infection.

Deborah Birx, co-ordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, said it was "frustrating" to hear people "parroting back that masks don't work (and) that gatherings don't result in superspreading events."

"This is not just the worst public health event. This is the worst event that this country will face," Ms Birx told NBC's Meet the Press.

"The vaccine is critical but it's not going to save us from this current surge."

 

Experts continue to express exasperation that many Americans continue to ignore guidance to wear masks, practice social distancing and avoid large crowds.

Former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb predicted the US death toll, now more than 280,000, could hit 400,000 by late January.

"There is a grim future ahead of us for the next six weeks," he told CBS's Face the Nation. "People really need to protect themselves."

Funeral homes have been completely overrun - the same way they were overflowing with bodies in the nation's first wave.

"We've had married couples that die within a day of each other, a husband and wife. We've had parents and children die within a week of each other. It's heart wrenching," funeral home manager Sheila Kruger told CNN.

Staff at her funeral home in California dealt with around 55 deaths a month before coronavirus. Now, they're burying an average of 135 a month.

Ms Kruger said her staff is "cringing" at having to tell families they can't book a funeral for up to five weeks as homes struggle to deal with the death toll.

Virus cases and deaths have hit record levels in the US, and television news reports show distraught nurses struggling to hold back tears as they work in overwhelmed COVID wards.

The latest big public gathering came Saturday in Valdosta, Georgia, when President Trump held his first rally since the election, drawing thousands of people, packed tightly together and with few wearing masks.

The President has long minimised the severity of the pandemic, and at his rally barely mentioned the virus.

 

 

President-Elect Joe Biden is taking a different approach.

Mr Biden, who has said he will urge all Americans to wear masks for 100 days when he takes power in January, expressed doubt late last week about the administration's planning for the vaccine rollout.

"There is no detailed plan that we've seen, anyway, as to how you get the vaccine out of a container, into an injection syringe, into somebody's arm," he said.

The coronavirus pandemic is also severely impacting industry and the economy, with time running out to provide support packages.

Politicians scrambled yesterday to reach difficult agreements as quickly as possible on a new aid package for the coronavirus-battered economy.

Republican and Democratic leaders have indicated that they would like the budget bill to include the next economic aid measures for the coronavirus, which have been the subject of bitter negotiations.

"It's really a superhuman effort on our part to help the American people as quickly as possible," Democratic Senator Dick Durbin told ABC's This Week.

 

 

Politicians have negotiated for months on passing such a bill, but haven't come to terms on how much to spend and what to spend it on.

Mr Durbin backed a bipartisan $908 billion aid packaged proposed this week.

Democratic and Republican senators and their teams worked all weekend to draft the text of the detailed bill, which "will probably come out early this week," said Senator Bill Cassidy, a Republican, on Fox News Sunday.

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has agreed to make the proposal the basis for negotiations on a final text.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, and President Donald Trump, who has to sign the bill into law, have not made their positions clear.

- With Wires

Originally published as America in chaos as 'dark winter' arrives



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