U.S. medical leaders urge Trump to share COVID-19 knowledge with Biden as states tighten limits
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: School busses are parked outside a school in Brooklyn, New York
By Gabriella Borter and Anurag Maan
(Reuters) – The U.S. medical establishment weighed in on the White House post-election transition fray on Tuesday, urging President Donald Trump to share critical COVID-19 data with President-elect Joe Biden’s team or risk needless, deadly lags in tackling the pandemic.
The Biden team has been trying to devise a coordinated national coronavirus strategy, and the open letter from three leading healthcare organizations came as more state and local governments scrambled separately to tamp down a COVID-19 surge threatening to overwhelm hospitals nationwide.
“Real-time data and information on the supply of therapeutics, testing supplies, personal protective equipment, ventilators, hospital bed capacity and workforce availability to plan for further deployment of the nation’s assets needs to be shared to save countless lives,” said the letter, signed by leaders of the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association and the American Hospitals Association.
The letter was published a day after Biden, the Democrat who won the tumultuous Nov. 3 election that Trump has refused to concede, warned that “more people may die” if the Republican incumbent keeps blocking a smooth succession to the next administration in January.
Health officials have warned that greater social mixing and indoor gatherings during the holiday travel season, combined with the onset of colder weather, will accelerate the COVID-19 surge that has sent infections and hospitalizations to record levels in recent weeks.
The soaring rate of new cases this fall has stricken even rural areas that had dodged the worst of the pandemic over the summer. Government officials in at least 17 states representing both ends of America’s political divide have issued sweeping new public health mandates this month. These range from stricter limits on social gatherings and non-essential businesses to new requirements for wearing masks in public places.
Forty-one U.S. states have reported daily record increases in COVID-19 cases in November, 20 have registered new all-time highs in coronavirus-related deaths from day to day, and 26 have reported new peaks in hospitalizations, according to a Reuters tally of public health data.
Twenty-five states reported 10% of COVID-19 diagnostic tests coming back positive for the week ending on Sunday, Nov. 15. The World Health Organization considers a positivity rate above 5% to be concerning.
Illustrating the risks of large social gatherings, health officials this week linked a Nov. 7 wedding that drew some 300 guests to a private location near the town of Ritzville in eastern Washington state to at least 17 COVID-19 infections and two subsequent outbreaks.
The Republican governors of Ohio and Maryland on Tuesday became the latest to place curfews on bars and restaurants to reduce the virus’ spread this winter, while the prospect of a widely available vaccine is still months away.
“We’re not shutting down, we’re slowing down,” Mike DeWine of Ohio said in unveiling the 10 p.m.-to-5 a.m. curfew in his state. “We have to flatten this curve again and get this under control.”
A similar curfew ordered by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan was accompanied by new restrictions limiting indoor capacity of businesses and organizations to 50% of normal.
“We are in a war right now and the virus is winning,” Hogan told reporters.
The United States crossed 11 million total infections on Sunday, just eight days after reaching the 10 million mark.
The number of coronavirus patients hospitalized in the United States climbed to a record of 73,140 on Monday, and hospitalizations have increased over 46% in past 14 days, according to a Reuters tally.
Several state officials also have urged citizens to exercise caution around the Thanksgiving holiday and not travel or socialize with extended family for the traditional indoor feast.
Governors of seven Midwestern states – Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Wisconsin – released a joint statement urging citizens to follow medical expert guidance to not celebrate Thanksgiving with people outside their households.
The Midwest remains the hardest-hit U.S. region during the latest wave of infections. The region reported 444,677 cases in the week ending on Monday, Nov. 16, 36% more than the Northeast and Western regions combined.
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell was even more forward-looking in her holiday warnings, announcing on Tuesday that the city’s Mardi Gras parades would be canceled in February.
“Experts are predicting a ‘winter spike’ in cases this winter in December and January – right when our carnival calendars get rolling,” Cantrell said on the city’s website.