Arizona and Texas counties hit hard by coronavirus bring in refrigerated trucks as morgues fill up

Coronavirus

TOPSHOT – Medical personnel move a deceased patient to a refrigerated truck serving as make shift morgues at Brooklyn Hospital Center on April 09, 2020 in New York City. – America’s coronavirus epicenter of New York recorded a new single-day high of 799 COVID-19 deaths Thursday but Governor Andrew Cuomo said the rate of hospitalizations continued to fall. (Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP) (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

 (CNN) — With skyrocketing coronavirus hospitalizations in several states, hard-hit counties in Arizona and Texas are preparing for the worst by bringing in refrigerated trucks as morgues fill up.

The US coronavirus outbreak hit nearly 3.5 million total infections Thursday morning and more than 137,000 reported deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Thirty-nine states reported an increase in the number of new cases from the week before. California, Florida, Arizona and Texas have become the states to watch as surging coronavirus cases lead to a shortage of hospital beds.

In Arizona’s Maricopa County, which has the most Covid-19 cases in the state, the medical examiner’s office has ordered four portable coolers with additional ones expected in the coming days, said Fields Moseley, the county spokesman. The medical examiner’s office morgue had a total of 156 deceased people — with a surge capacity of just over 200, Moseley said Wednesday.

It is unclear how many of the deaths are related to the coronavirus — the county has said fatalities go up in the summer due to the heat.

Two counties in Texas — Cameron and Hidalgo — are sharing a large refrigerated trailer to store bodies of coronavirus patients because of a lack of space at the morgues.

San Antonio officials have also said they’re requesting refrigerated trucks.

“I’m pleading with everybody in our neck of the woods, help us do your part, people’s lives are at stake — not just the people getting sick, but doctors, nurses working to the bone, EMS personnel, transporting people,” Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño Jr. told CNN affiliate KVEO.

Officials look for options as hospitals fill up

As infections go up, officials nationwide are rushing to issue restrictions all over again.

Gov. Brian Kemp extended Georgia’s emergency coronavirus restrictions and said while people are “strongly encouraged” to wear face coverings — they’re not required. The order, which expires July 31, limits public gatherings to 50 people and mandates social distancing.

But his order also prevents local governments from implementing stricter rules than the state’s — including requiring face masks.

The state reported 417 additional hospitalizations, nearly double Tuesday’s total, and is turning the Georgia World Congress Center, a large convention venue in downtown Atlanta, into a potential overflow hospital.

California, the country’s most populous state, set two more records Wednesday with highs for hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions. The state announced 11,126 new cases, with a total of 6,786 Covid-19 positive hospital patients and 1,907 patients in the ICU. And in Los Angeles County, the public health director warned another stay-at-home order is likely.

“We can’t take anything off the table — there’s absolutely no certainty of what exactly is going to happen next,” Dr. Barbara Ferrer said.

California met its goal to have 10,000 contact tracers statewide by July 1, but Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said it’s not enough to handle the onslaught of coronavirus cases.

“We did not build the first contact tracing program on this level of transmission,” Ghaly said.

Florida reported 301,810 positive cases statewide Wednesday with 19,334 people hospitalized. More than 50 hospitals have reached ICU capacity and show zero beds available, according to according to data released by the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA). Eight of those hospitals are in Miami-Dade County.

In South Texas, hospitals in Laredo are full andthe federal government is converting a hotel into a health care facility.

Arizona health officials announced they’re bringing nearly 600 critical care and medical-surgical nurses from out of state to help.

“Covid-19 hospitalizations in Arizona have increased with hospitals reporting nearly 3,500 inpatients and more than 900 patients in their intensive care units,” the Arizona Department of Health Services said in a statement.

Public health experts say the end of the pandemic remains out of sight, and several states took steps to mandate the wearing of masks.

Alabama and Montana have said they are now required in public. In Montana, face coverings are mandatory in certain indoor group settings where more than 50 people gather and social distancing is not possible. More than 30 states now have mandates on face coverings in public.

And in Oklahoma, Gov. Kevin Stitt said he’s tested positive for Covid-19 the same day the state reported a record high number of new cases.

There were 22,813 total cases in the state, up 1,075 from Tuesday, health officials said. At least 561 people are hospitalized due to the virus.

Despite his diagnosis, Stitt said he opposes a statewide face mask law, partly because it would be difficult to enforce, according to the Oklahoman newspaper.

On Thursday, Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum signed a city mask ordinance while wearing a mask himself, according to a post on his Facebook page.

“We do this at the request of our hospitals, our doctors and nurses, our school leaders, and so many more who want to protect the ability of local health care systems to serve Tulsans in need,” Bynum said.

Governor touts questionable research

With his state hit hard by a huge surge in coronavirus cases, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis applauded positive results from antibody testing, calling it a “good sign.” But scientists disagree.

Antibody tests determine whether a person had Covid-19 in the past, after the infection’s cleared. “That creates resistance in terms of the ability for the disease to spread,” DeSantis said at a news conference.

However, researchers including the World Health Organization have repeatedly said there’s no evidence to show that prior infection and developing antibodies make someone immune to future infection.

Last week, a Spanish government study suggested that coronavirus antibodies wane after a few weeks.

Higher death toll expected

Thousands more Americans will die from the virus before a vaccine is developed, an influential model says.

The model from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington is projecting 224,000 people will die from the virus by November 1 — an increase of almost 16,000 from the week before.

That jump is due to skyrocketing cases around the country, particularly in Florida, Texas, Arizona, California, Louisiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah, said Dr. Chris Murray, chair of the IHME.

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