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Key indicators suggest US COVID-19 outbreak is headed in wrong direction

by ABC News' Soorin Kim, Brian Hartman, Benjamin Bell and Arielle Mitropoulos contributed to this report on October 16, 2020

Key indicators suggest US COVID-19 outbreak is headed in wrong direction

 

Coronavirus cases in the United States are headed toward a third peak, as cases continue to climb throughout the Midwest, Mountain West, Northeast, South and West.

Back in April, the country hit a grim milestone, logging a record seven-day average of 31,165 new daily cases, according to data from The COVID Tracking Project. Those high numbers eased off until July, when the country broke its record, logging a seven-day average of 66,143 new cases each day.

After a late-summer respite, the nation recorded a seven-day average of 53,282 new cases Oct. 16, meaning the U.S. is on track to break its daily infection record for the third time.

Beyond grim national statistics, including 37,000 Americans currently hospitalized with COVID-19, there are worrying state-level indications that the outbreak is headed in the wrong direction as winter approaches.

Infections are increasing in 38 states, with eight reporting record numbers of new COVID-19 cases on Oct. 15. Hospitalizations are trending upward in 39 states, including in Utah, where Dr. Eddie Stenehjem, an infectious disease physician at Intermountain Healthcare, said the uptick in COVID-19 hospitalizations is straining the health care system.

"This is getting to a point where we're going to be opening up overflow ICUs," Stenehjem told told Salt Lake City ABC affiliate KTVX.

"We're load-leveling like never before. We're transferring patients," Stenehjem added. In addition to concerns about patient care, the high level of COVID-19 hospitalizations is taking a toll on health care workers.

"We may have beds to take care of these patients, but our staff is getting incredibly tired and short and our ICU nurses are working around the clock," Stenejhem said.

In addition to rising new cases and hospitalizations, 13 states are reporting an increasing number of COVID-19 deaths.

In Texas, two funeral homes told El Paso ABC affiliate KVIA they added extra mortuary refrigerators due to increasing COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations.

"First, initially, we see the rise in positive cases," Dr. Hector Ocaranza, the county health authority told KVIA. "Then we see the rise in hospitalizations, and unfortunately, we see the rise in deaths."

ABC News' Soorin Kim, Brian Hartman, Benjamin Bell and Arielle Mitropoulos contributed to this report

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