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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Some states are seeing dangerous levels of coronavirus hospitalizations, with hospitals warning that they could soon become overwhelmed if no action is taken to slow the spread.

Why it matters: Patients can only receive good care if there's enough care to go around — which is one reason why the death rate was so much higher in the spring, some experts say.

Driving the news: The Utah Hospital Association has warned that the state's situation is becoming so dire that hospitals are expecting to begin rationing care within a week or two, per The Salt Lake Tribune.

  • El Paso has issued a new stay at home order in response to overwhelmed hospitals, and additional beds are being set up in the city's convention center.
  • On Saturday, North Dakota had only 22 available intensive care beds and 247 regular inpatient beds, the Grand Forks Herald reports.
  • Idaho Gov. Brad Little announced the return of some social distancing measures yesterday, per the Idaho Statesman. “Hospitals throughout the state are quickly filling up or are already full with COVID-19 patients and other patients, and way too many health care workers are out sick with COVID-19,” he said.

The big picture: The problem is particularly acute in rural parts of the Mountain West and the Midwest, where health care workers are scarce. When they're infected by the virus or forced to quarantine after exposure, it's hard to find replacements, Kaiser Health News reports.

  • For now, hospitals are continuing on with elective procedures, the Wall Street Journal reports. The suspension of such procedures in the spring led to heavy financial losses, health care worker layoffs and worsening health conditions among non-coronavirus patients.

Yes, but: Several Republican governors continue to resist statewide mask mandates, and it's unclear how far state and local governments will go in response to the surge of cases.

  • When cases surged earlier on, “our governments reacted,” Megan Ranney, an emergency medicine professor at Brown University, told the Washington Post. “We closed bars. We closed restaurants. We enforced mask mandates. And I’m not seeing a lot of that nationally right now.”

The bottom line: Pandemic fatigue, politicization of the virus and the upcoming holiday season all make it almost certain that the situation will get worse before it gets better. The consequences will be deadly.

Go deeper

Updated 19 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus may have been in U.S. in December 2019, study finds — Hospital crisis deepens as holiday season nears.
  2. Politics: Bipartisan group of senators unveil $908 billion COVID stimulus proposalFDA chief was called to West Wing to explain why agency hasn't moved faster on vaccine — The words that actually persuade people on the pandemic
  3. Vaccine: Moderna to file for FDA emergency use authorizationVaccinating rural America won't be easy — Being last in the vaccine queue is young people's next big COVID test.
  4. States: Cuomo orders emergency hospital protocols as New York's COVID capacity dwindles.
  5. World: European regulators to assess first COVID-19 vaccine by Dec. 29
  6. 🎧 Podcast: The state of play of the top vaccines.
Nov 30, 2020 - Health

Young people's next big COVID test

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Young, healthy people will be at the back of the line for coronavirus vaccines, and they'll have to maintain their sense of urgency as they wait their turn — otherwise, vaccinations won't be as effective in bringing the pandemic to a close.

The big picture: "It’s great young people are anticipating the vaccine," said Jewel Mullen, associate dean for health equity at Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin. But the prospect of that enthusiasm waning is "a cause for concern," she said.

Families sue California over remote learning pandemic measures

A student works on his laptop in his socially distanced protective learning pod at a remote learning hub in Culver City, California. Photo: Mario Tama via Getty

Seven families filed a lawsuit in California Monday, alleging that the state has failed to ensure "basic educational equality" during the pandemic, which has forced millions of students into remote learning.

Why it matters: Remote learning puts students of color and low-income students at greater disadvantages, reports show. As the U.S. continues to debate the issue of reopening schools, it's the marginalized students who are suffering the costs.