After engulfing big US cities, COVID-19 overwhelms American Midwest
After pounding big U.S. cities in the spring, COVID-19 now has engulfed rural and small-towns in America, including the Midwestern states, encompassing a dozen states between Ohio and the Dakotas, according to a report by Reuters.
U.S. health officials told Reuters that many hospitals in central regions of the U.S. severely lack beds, equipment and clinical staff, including specialists and nurses.
Coronavirus infections and hospitalizations are spiking across the U.S., but the Midwest has been especially brutalized.
Reported case rates are more than double that of any other region in the United States, according to the COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer-run data provider.
From mid-June to mid-November, reported cases in the Midwest rose more than twentyfold.
Hospital officials in the Midwest told Reuters they’re at capacity or nearly so. Most have tried to increase availability by repurposing wings or cramming multiple patients in a single room, and by asking staffers to work longer hours and more frequent shifts.
Medical facilities in the Midwest weren’t made for this crisis. Often sparsely funded, they mainly provide basic or emergency care to residents who live long distances away from bigger medical centers. Now, “we have to plan on being able to care for whomever comes in,” said Dr. Drew Miller, chief medical officer at Kearny County Hospital in rural Lakin, Kansas
As virus cases spike in many Republican states and counties, medical workers say they often face a challenge just in convincing patients and local leaders that the disease should be taken seriously and isn’t a Democrat-perpetuated hoax.
Such viewpoints flow from the top. Republican President Donald Trump often has held shoulder-to-shoulder rallies in the Midwest and elsewhere and treated masks as a matter of personal choice.
Although Trump was not re-elected, about two months remain in his tenure, with little sign of change in his coronavirus strategy, even as the crisis grows.
Some medical officials and hospital staffers find it hard to reconcile laissez-faire policies with the sickness and suffering they see.
“There’s a disconnect in the community, where we’re seeing people at bars and restaurants, or planning Thanksgiving dinners,” said Dr. Kelly Cawcutt, an infectious disease doctor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. As health workers, she said, “we feel kind of dejected.”