The US Is Heading Into A Third Wave Of COVID Hospitalizations As Election Day Nears

First the coronavirus ravaged the northeast, then it hit the Sun Belt. Now hospitals across the midwest and northern plains are feeling the strain as COVID-19 continues to stalk the nation.

Less than three weeks out from an election that many see as a referendum on President Donald Trump’s handling of the pandemic, a “third wave” of COVID-19 hospitalizations is underway in the US.

Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are now rising again across most of the nation, including the northeast. But some of the biggest surges are currently happening across the midwest and the northern plains, including Montana, Nebraska, and the Dakotas — states that escaped the worst of the previous two big surges in the spring and summer.

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 show up in the data later than case counts, and it’s unclear whether the current surge will rise as high as those in April and July. Those surges hit hardest in the northeast and the Sun Belt respectively, and each peaked with around 60,000 people in the hospital across the US.

But clinicians on the front line are concerned that another big rise may be on the way. “Clearly there are clouds on the horizon and there are some very worrisome trends,” Mark Rupp, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, told BuzzFeed News.

The current wave in hospitalizations, which began in September, hit especially hard in Wisconsin. Almost 1,000 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in Wisconsin in a surge that shows no sign of slowing, according to data compiledby the COVID Tracking Project. About one quarter of those patients are in the ICU.

On Wednesday, the state opened a field hospital that can house an additional 530 coronavirus patients, constructed in the Wisconsin State Fair Park outside Milwaukee to ease the pressure on the state’s regular hospitals. It is intended to treat those already on the road to recovery.