States enact more COVID-19 rules as the US hits 11 million cases

The United States surpassed 11 million coronavirus cases on Sunday as states moved to enact restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the virus.


Video above: Nurses from New Orleans head to Kansas C to help hospital with COVID-19 surge

The United States surpassed 11 million coronavirus cases on Sunday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, as states across the country moved to enact restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the virus.

The latest milestone comes less than a week after the U.S. recorded 10 million cases, per Johns Hopkins data. It was the fastest the U.S. has added one million new cases since the pandemic began.

At least 45 states have reported more new infections this past week compared to the previous week, according to Johns Hopkins University.

"We have this firestorm of coronavirus all across the country," emergency medicine physician Dr. Leana Wen said. "It's not one or two hotspots. The entire country is a hotspot of coronavirus infection."

Even Wyoming is getting hit hard. On Saturday, the state set new records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths, with 202 hospitalizations and 17 new deaths reported in one day.

Nationwide, more than 246,000 people have died — including 1,266 new deaths reported on Saturday alone.

And while some officials toughen their restrictions, some say changing behavior is more important than shutting down.

'Don't share your air, and don't do stupid things'

If everyone took precautions and stopped assuming their friends aren't infected, the results could be more effective than a lockdown, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said.

"The good thing about where we are now is we're smarter than we were in March. We understand that this blanket kind of lockdown, which did the trick then, may not be the best way now," he said.

"It's not about whether a store is open or not. It's about your and my behavior. It's about whether we think, 'Oh, I know that person, so I'm familiar with them. I can hang out with them ... Those things are what's causing the spread."

So if people don't like shutdowns, the solutions are simple: "Cancel those vacation plans right now. Do not sneak in other households for Thanksgiving," Garcetti said.

"To me, the mantra is two things: Don't share your air, and don't do stupid things."


More states are setting new rules

With the rapid acceleration of new infections, many states are scrambling to curb the virus with new restrictions. Among them:

  • Washington state announced new restrictions on social gatherings, businesses and religious services
  • Utah now has a statewide mask mandate
  • Ohio is enacting stricter mask mandates for businesses
  • New Mexico is banning in-person services for nonessential businesses
  • Maryland is scaling back indoor restaurant dining capacity from 75% to 50%
  • New York says most bars and restaurants must close by 10 p.m.
  • Oregon is closing indoor restaurant dining and limiting social gatherings to no more than six people.

Video: Ohio governor threatens to close bars, restaurants, fitness centers if virus trends continue

The Navajo Nation will also implement stricter measures starting Monday, including virtual learning for students and the closure of non-essential government services.

"We are inching closer and closer to a major public health crisis in which we could potentially see our hospitals filling up with patients," Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said. "Our health care system on the Navajo Nation cannot sustain a long-term surge in COVID-19 cases."

Hospitals are at the worst point ever in this pandemic

Remember those grim scenes from the spring and summer surge, when hospitals were overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients?

The U.S. set a new record-high number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 on Saturday — 69,455, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

That's well beyond the spring peak of 59,940 on April 15 and the summer peak of 59,718 on July 23.

In some hospitals, the staffing is so dire that asymptomatic doctors and nurses infected with coronavirus are allowed to keep working in COVID-19 units.

"You can make more ICU beds, but what you can't make are more ICU nurses," said Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a professor of medicine at George Washington University.

Fauci: Local shutdowns are more likely than a national lockdown

If hospitals get overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, local or state officials might order some places to shut down again, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

"We're not going to get a national lockdown," Fauci said.

"But I think what we are going to start seeing in the local levels, be they governors or mayors or people at the local level, will do ... very surgical type of restrictions which are the functional equivalent of a local lockdown."

"If things really get bad," Fauci said, "you may need to take the extra step you're talking about."

The flu season collides with the pandemic

Hospitals aren't just grappling with coronavirus. They're also dealing with the flu, which caused an estimated 400,000 hospitalizations and 22,000 deaths in the U.S. during the last flu season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Both flu and coronavirus can cause many of the same symptoms, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams said.

But "the one symptom that I would alert people to that really differentiates flu from COVID is loss of taste or smell," Adams said on NPR's "All Things Considered."

"If you get that symptom, then you need to be reaching out to your health provider right away and going in and getting a COVID test."

Adams encouraged the public to get a flu shot this year and warned not to self-diagnose. A health care provider can give better answers so patients can respond appropriately to their symptoms.

"COVID seems to spread much more easily than the flu, and it causes much more serious illnesses in some people," he said.