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Covid-19 Live Updates: U.S. Hospitals Are Reaching Their Limits

LIVEUpdated Oct. 26, 2020, 7:23 a.m. ET46 minutes ago46 minutes ago

The country has seen a 40 percent increase in the past month in the number of hospitalized Covid-19 patients.

A surge in hospitalizations is straining U.S. health care facilities.

With the coronavirus spreading out of control in many parts of the United States and daily case counts setting records, health experts say it is only a matter of time before hospitals reach the breaking point.

In some places, it is already happening.

There are more than 41,000 Covid-19 patients hospitalized in the United States, a 40 percent rise in the past month. And unlike during the earlier months of the pandemic, more of those patients are being cared for not in metropolitan regions but in more sparsely populated parts of the country, where the medical infrastructure is less robust.

In Utah last week, hospital administrators sent a grim warning to Gov. Gary Herbert that they would soon be forced to ration access to their rapidly filling intensive-care units, and requested approval for criteria to decide which patients should get priority, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.

“We told him, ‘It looks like we’re going to have to request those be activated if this trend continues,’ and we see no reason why it won’t,” the paper quoted Greg Bell, president of the Utah Hospital Association, as saying.

Skeptics need only look at places like Kansas City, Mo., where this month medical centers turned away ambulances because they had no room for more patients. And in Idaho, a hospital that was 99 percent full warned last week that it may have to transfer coronavirus patients to hospitals as far away as Seattle and Portland, Ore.

Hospitals in hard-hit parts of the country are resorting to a tactic commonly used during the pandemic as it eats away at medical resources: limiting their services.

In Tennessee on Saturday, the Maury Regional Medical Center in Columbia suspended all elective procedures requiring an overnight stay to make room for Covid-19 patients. Most of the facility’s 26 I.C.U. beds are already filled.

In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott said an emergency care site would be set up this week in El Paso, where public health officials on Sunday again issued a plea for residents to stay home for two weeks to help curb the rapidly rising number of virus infections.

In places like Milwaukee and Salt Lake City, field hospitals are being opened.

— Eric NagourneyMelina Delkic, Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio and Nicholas Bogel-BurroughsOVERFLOWING HOSPITALSRead more about the facilities around the United States that have been pushed to the brink by the recent surge in coronavirus cases.

Tracking the Coronavirus ›

United States ›On Oct. 2514-day changeTrendNew cases59,624+32%New deaths337+12%

Where cases are highest per capita

N.D.S.D.Wis.Mont.IdahoWyo.UtahNeb.IowaAlaskaTenn.Ill.U.S. hot spots ›College cases ›Worldwide ›

Colleges slash budgets during the pandemic.

Ohio Wesleyan University, which is struggling financially because of the coronavirus pandemic, is eliminating or phasing out majors in comparative literature, urban studies, journalism and 15 other subjects
Ohio Wesleyan University, which is struggling financially because of the coronavirus pandemic, is eliminating or phasing out majors in comparative literature, urban studies, journalism and 15 other subjectsCredit…Andrew Spear for The New York Times

As it resurges across the United States, the coronavirus is forcing universities large and small to make deep and possibly lasting cuts to close widening budget shortfalls.

Though many colleges imposed stopgap measures such as hiring freezes and early retirements to save money in the spring, the persistence of the economic downturn is taking a devastating financial toll, pushing many to lay off or furlough employees, delay graduate admissions and even cut or consolidate core programs like liberal arts departments.

Ohio Wesleyan University is eliminating 18 majors. The University of Florida’s trustees this month took the first steps toward letting the school furlough faculty. The University of California, Berkeley, has paused admissions to its Ph.D. programs in anthropology, sociology and art history.

“We haven’t seen a budget crisis like this in a generation,” said Robert Kelchen, a Seton Hall University associate professor of higher education who has been tracking the administrative response to the pandemic. “There’s nothing off-limits at this point.”

State governments from Washington to Connecticut, tightening their own belts, have told public universities to expect steep cuts in appropriations. Students and families, facing skyrocketing unemployment, have balked at the prospect of paying full fare for largely online instruction, opting instead for gap years or less expensive schools closer to home.

Costs have also soared as colleges have spent millions on testing, tracing and quarantining students, only to grapple with outbreaks. A New York Times database has confirmed more than 214,000 cases this year at college campuses, with at least 75 deaths, mostly among adults last spring, but also including some students more recently.

In a letter to Congress this week, the American Council on Education and other higher education organizations estimated that the virus would cost institutions more than $120 billion in increased student aid, lost housing fees, forgone sports revenue, public health measures, learning technology and other adjustments.COLLEGE BUDGET CRISISRead more about the financial shortfalls at universities around the United States.Tracking the Coronavirus at U.S. Colleges and UniversitiesAs fall classes continue, campus outbreaks keep emerging.

— Shawn Hubler

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