States With Few Coronavirus Restrictions Are Spreading the Virus Beyond Their Borders

Lax states are attracting shoppers and students from stricter neighbors — and sending back COVID-19 cases. The imbalance underscores the lack of a national policy.

For months after Washington state imposed one of the earliest and strictest COVID-19 lockdowns in March, Jim Gilliard didn’t stray far from his modular home near Waitts Lake, 45 miles north of Spokane.

The retiree was at high risk from the coronavirus, both because of his age, 70, and his medical condition. Several years ago, he had a defibrillator implanted. So he mainly ventured out during the pandemic to shop for food.

There wasn’t much else to do anyway. Gatherings in his county were limited to no more than 10 people, there was a mask mandate, movie theaters were closed and many nightclubs and concert venues were shuttered because of a state ban on all live entertainment, indoors and out.

An hour away in Idaho, life was more normal. The state left key COVID-19 regulations up to localities, many of which made masks optional. Even in places that required face coverings, enforcement was laxer than in Washington. High school sports, canceled for the fall in Washington, were on full display in Idaho. Most Idaho schools welcomed back students in person, in contrast to the remote learning prevailing in Washington. Businesses reopened earlier and with fewer restrictions. There were concerts and dances.

Weary of Washington’s restrictions, thousands of residents made the easy drive over the border to vacation, shop and dine in Idaho. Gilliard resisted temptation until he learned that the annual Panhandle Bluesfest would go on as scheduled near Priest River, Idaho, on Sept. 12. A keyboardist who used to own a blues club just outside Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Gilliard was buoyed after months of relative isolation by the prospect of hanging out with friends while listening to music on a remote mountainside surrounded by soaring pine trees and thick hemlocks. He decided to go.

A friend took a picture of Gilliard at the festival. Wearing a bandanna fashioned as a headband, a cut-off T-shirt and dark glasses, he was perched on a tree stump and pointing back at the camera. As was permitted by local regulations at the time, he was not wearing a mask, nor were about 10 people sitting together in the background.


As the number of COVID-19 cases skyrockets nationwide, the extent of the public health response varies from one state — and sometimes one town — to the next. The incongruous approaches and the lack of national standards have created confusion, conflict and a muddled public health message, likely hampering efforts to stop the spread of the virus. The country’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said last month that the country needs “a uniform approach” to fighting the virus instead of a “disjointed” one.

Nowhere are these regulatory disparities more counterproductive and jarring than in the border areas between restrictive and permissive states; for example, between Washington and Idaho, Minnesota and South Dakota, and Illinois and Iowa. In each pairing, one state has imposed tough and sometimes unpopular restrictions on behavior, only to be confounded by a neighbor’s leniency. Like factories whose emissions boost asthma rates for miles around, a state’s lax public health policies can wreak damage beyond its borders.

“In some ways, the whole country is essentially living with the strategy of the least effective states because states interconnect and one state not doing a good job will continue to spread the virus to other states,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. “States can’t wall themselves off.”

A motorcycle rally in August in Sturgis, South Dakota, with half a million attendees from around the country spread COVID-19 to neighboring Minnesota and beyond, according to Melanie Firestone, an epidemic intelligence service officer for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who co-authored a report on the event’s impact.

South Dakota “didn’t have policies regarding mask use or event size, and we see that there was an impact in a state that did have such policies,” Firestone said. “The findings from this outbreak support having consistent approaches across states. We are all in it together when it comes to stopping the spread of COVID-19.”

Viruses don’t respect geographic boundaries. While some states require visitors, especially from high-risk areas, to be tested or quarantined, others like South Dakota have no such restrictions. Many people who are tired of strict COVID-19 measures in their states have escaped to areas where everyday life more closely resembles pre-pandemic times. There, with fewer protections, they’re at risk of contracting the virus and bringing it back home.

After the Idaho concert, Gilliard started feeling ill and was diagnosed with the coronavirus. For about a week, he stayed in bed. As his condition worsened, he was admitted to a Spokane hospital and placed on a ventilator. He died on Oct. 15. His death certificate lists COVID-19 as the underlying cause.

Going to the Idaho festival likely killed Gilliard, his ex-wife, Robin Ball, said.

“If he had been wearing a mask, not shaking hands and keeping distance, he could probably be alive,” she said. “He had been careful before that. He shouldn’t have been up there.”


The degree of coronavirus regulation tends to track political lines. President-elect Joe Biden carried blue Washington state with 58% of the vote, while President Donald Trump easily won red Idaho with 64%. Trump has helped to fuel the patchwork response to the pandemic, criticizing the approaches of some states, praising others and at times contradicting the advice of his own coronavirus task force and Fauci.

“What really struck me [is] how hard it is to take the pandemic strategy as laid out by the White House with every state on its own and … implement it because every state is not on its own, they are all interconnected,” Jha said.

Biden has said he wants to implement national standards, such as required mask wearing, to help blunt the spread of COVID-19 while acknowledging the federal government has little power to do so. He hopes to work with governors and local officials to establish consistent standards across the country.

A lack of such consistency is affecting eastern Washington, which appears to be absorbing some of the costs — both human and economic — of Idaho’s more laissez-faire approach to the virus. The rate of new cases in and around Spokane, near the Idaho border, is far higher than in Seattle and western Washington, which experienced one of the earliest outbreaks in the country in February. Although slightly more than half of recent COVID-19 cases in Spokane spread among households or personal contacts, Spokane Regional Health District epidemiologist Mark Springer said, “people bringing back COVID-19 from larger events in Idaho” has been a problem. And with Idaho’s rate of new cases now doubling Washington’s, Idahoans who commute to the Spokane area pose an outsized danger. At the same time, Washington’s shuttered businesses have ceded customers to their Idaho competitors.

Public schools in Washington have also suffered. After opening the school year with remote-only instruction, the Newport School District lost about one-fourth of its 1,200 students. Most of them opted either for specialized online-only programs or for nearby private and public schools across the border in Idaho, which offered in-person learning and sometimes didn’t require masks or social distancing, said Newport Superintendent Dave Smith. The plunge in enrollment has led to a $1.2 million drop in funding, he said.

In early October, Newport began some in-person learning but had to return to remote instruction after a COVID-19 outbreak in the community. The source was traced to a Christian church and school only a few feet from the Washington border in Oldtown, Idaho.

“It’s incredibly frustrating,” Smith said. “I certainly think aligned standards across the nation would have changed our situation.”

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee recently called on “Idaho leaders to show some leadership” and be more aggressive in combating COVID-19. He blamed the virus spread in Idaho for straining Washington hospitals. For their part, some in Idaho have complained that the rise of COVID-19 there has more to do with the influx of Washington residents over the summer and fall than with a lighter regulatory touch.

Many of those Washingtonians headed to Coeur d’Alene (pop. 52,400), the seat of Kootenai County and the largest city in northern Idaho. Despite some cancellations, many tourism activities went on as scheduled. The Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane ran a feature headlined, “A nearby escape: Coeur d’Alene Resort offers amenities for singles and families.” The resort, the article noted, was offering special packages for families that include a pizza-making experience, scenic cruise tickets and discount theme park tickets. In the resort garage, most of the license plates were from Idaho or Washington.

“Yes, the coronavirus exists,” the article continued. “However, the luxe Coeur d’Alene Resort is open and taking steps to make an experience as safe as possible.” While employees wore masks, the article said, they were optional for guests and about two-thirds opted not to use them. The resort did not respond to requests for comment.

At a park in downtown Coeur d’Alene, a weekly concert series called Live After 5 attracted crowds all summer. Though attendance was lower than in prior years, it swelled as promoters targeted marketing to tourists, concert organizer Tyler Davis said. At one show in July, a member of the band surveyed the large gathering and said, “Look around you guys, it feels kind of normal tonight.” Groups of people danced in front of the stage, food trucks lined up along one side and vendors set up tents. Masks were “encouraged but not required.”

The day after that show, the Panhandle Health District encompassing five Idaho counties ordered a mask mandate in Kootenai. It required masks in indoor and outdoor public places when a social distance of 6 feet could not be maintained.

Springer, the epidemiologist, watched the flow of Spokane County residents to Idaho with concern. “The issue with Idaho is a somewhat significant one for us in that the restrictions are a pretty stark contrast between what is in Idaho and what we have in Washington,” he said. “Coeur d’Alene is a sister community to us.”


Jim Gilliard was a popular figure in the blues music community around Spokane and northern Idaho. In the 1990s, he operated a music club outside Coeur d’Alene called Mad Daddy’s Blues. He was a talented musician himself, playing keyboards in local blues bands, even after losing a finger and badly injuring two others in a table saw accident.

Gilliard was raised in New York City and Pennsylvania. His father, E. Thomas Gilliard, was an acclaimed ornithologist who served as curator of birds at the American Museum of Natural History and was often gone for months at a time on expeditions to New Guinea. After Gilliard met Ball, the two headed to Colorado and enjoyed life as ski bums, moving from resort to resort for a couple of years before eventually settling in Coeur d’Alene, and having a son. After they divorced two decades ago, she stayed in Coeur d’Alene and he ended up in the village of Valley, Washington. (pop. 164).

Gilliard was one of nearly 300 people who paid $25 each to attend the blues festival, which was held 2 miles up a mountain road outside Priest River, Idaho, a tourist town 6 miles from the Washington border.

Bonner County, where the concert was held, is a rural pocket of defiance against government public health mandates related to the coronavirus. When the local library instituted a mask requirement for users, mask-less demonstrators, some clutching small children, protested and tried to enter the library as staff members stood their ground and explained they were only trying to prevent people from getting sick. The county sheriff wrote to the governor criticizing lockdown orders early in the pandemic, alleging that public health officials misled the public and that “COVID-19 is nothing like the plague.”

Concert organizers Billy and Patty Mullaley said they waited until the end of June before deciding to go ahead with it. The only potential roadblock was getting liability insurance at an affordable price during a pandemic, which they were able to do after shopping around.

“At the time, there were not any restrictions” on events like theirs in Idaho, Patty Mullaley said. “We did not take it lightly, having the event. We really put thought into it.” They bleached outhouses and the area around the concert stage offered plenty of space for social distancing, she said. Among those most grateful they went ahead, she said, were musicians who had been starved for gigs because of coronavirus-related cancellations. Featured acts included Sammy Eubanks, Coyote Kings and Tuck Foster and the Tumbling Dice.

Mullaley said the festival drew Washington residents eager for events banned in their own state. “From my experience, everyone and their dog from Washington was over here,” she said. “Our COVID is probably from people coming over here from Washington.”

Few of the hundreds of people at the festival wore masks and many didn’t stay socially distant, according to attendees. “Part of what made it magical was people were completely free and happy and not fearful at all,” said Sylvia Soucy, who had COVID-19 earlier in the summer. People danced barefoot on the soft sand and mingled with friends, she said.

Mullaley said people socially distanced “as much as possible.” In the end, she said, “these were all adults” who made individual decisions. Soucy agreed. “It was completely a choice all of us made,” she said. The remote setting — no cellphone service, no electricity and surrounded by hundreds of acres of undeveloped forest — added to the temporary joy of escaping from the virus, Soucy said.

Soucy said she talked to Gilliard there and he was in good spirits, “glad that people were not worried about being able to get together there on the mountain.” Gilliard also chatted with other friends, including a former girlfriend, according to Soucy. Ball said the former girlfriend was diagnosed with COVID-19 shortly after the festival and notified Gilliard.

“I don’t know why he let his guard down,” Ball said. “I will never understand that.” In the end, she thinks it had to do with “a long summer of not having a lot of stuff to do. He had been so cautious for those seven or eight months. He just didn’t feel like it was going to be a problem.”

The Mullaleys said they were unaware of anyone else from the concert getting COVID-19 around that time. But some Washington residents who tested positive for the coronavirus told contact tracers that they had attended the blues festival, according to Matt Schanz, the administrator of Northeast Tri County Health District, a public health agency in Washington covering counties near the Idaho border.

That doesn’t definitively mean that they contracted the virus at the festival, he said. “We have 550 cases within three counties, and if you read the summary reports, a decent number of those have some affiliation with Idaho,” Schanz said.


South Dakota has largely remained open for business during the pandemic. Gov. Kristi Noem, an ally of Trump’s, has refused to impose a mask mandate, saying there are questions about its effectiveness. The state has not placed any restrictions on bars and restaurants and officials allowed the 10-day motorcycle rally in Sturgis. Such a rally would have been prohibited in Minnesota. Both Minnesota and South Dakota are in the top five states when it comes to rates of cases per capita over the last week.

The CDC advises that outdoor events are less risky than indoor ones. The Sturgis rally, which featured events in both settings, is now linked to at least 86 COVID-19 cases in Minnesota, including four people who were hospitalized and one death, according to a CDC report released in November. The report said the total is likely an undercount as some of those infected declined to share their close contacts with health officials.

“These findings highlight the far-reaching effects that gatherings in one area might have on another area,” the researchers wrote. They added, “This rally not only had a direct impact on the health of attendees, but also led to subsequent SARS-CoV-2 transmission among household, social, and workplace contacts of rally attendees upon their return to Minnesota.”

Mike Kuhle, the mayor of Worthington, Minnesota, said South Dakota’s approach to the pandemic “is a source of heartburn for me and sleepless nights.” His city is close to both the South Dakota and Iowa borders. In addition to worries about the virus spreading from South Dakota, Kuhle said, “during the lockdown people have gone to Sioux Falls for shopping. It’s ugly for our businesses.”

A similar dynamic has played out in the Quad Cities area at the border of Illinois and Iowa. There, thousands of people cross bridges over the Mississippi River every day to work, visit family and shop in each state.

As cases in Iowa began to surge this summer, Gov. Kim Reynolds dismissed mask mandates as “feel-good” measures that are difficult to enforce. Until recently, Iowa restaurants and gyms were allowed to operate at full capacity as long as social distancing measures were in place. There was no state-imposed limit on the size of social gatherings. Nicknamed “COVID Kim” by her critics, Reynolds changed course in mid-November in the face of surging cases and hospitalizations, requiring masks.

Illinois clamped down earlier and harder, instituting a mask mandate at the end of April. Movie theaters opened in Iowa before those in Illinois. Iowa never closed its golf courses when neighboring states like Illinois did.

For Illinois businesses, the gap between the two states’ regulations has been crushing, said Paul Rumler, the president of the Quad Cities Chamber.

“A river runs through it but otherwise this is one community,” he said. On the Illinois side, “we have retailers and restaurants who want to be responsible corporate citizens and follow the guidelines knowing they are at a disadvantage from a business literally 3 miles away.”

Rumler said the chamber advocated for the two states to have a consistent approach to the pandemic to no avail. “If there was a federal standard, it would eliminate the confusion of our region,” he said. “It would make our life a lot easier.”

Debbie Freiburg, a volunteer contact tracer for the county encompassing the Illinois side of the border, said the looser restrictions in Iowa offered Illinois residents the chance to “take a break” from the virus.

“It’s bad and the differences are huge, unfortunately,” she said. “I can be in Iowa in 10 minutes, and there were a lot of us going shopping in Iowa.”

Freiburg, who retired to the area after working as a pediatric cancer nurse in Washington, D.C., said cases in her Illinois county have been tracked to Iowa, including several from a large wedding at a hotel just over the border.


Tensions between Washington and Idaho over their divergent responses to the pandemic escalated in October. As the count of COVID-19 cases climbed, the board of the Panhandle Health District in Idaho voted 4-3 to rescind the mask order it had imposed on Kootenai County three months before. Officials in Washington were stunned. Inslee, the governor, refused to rule out restrictions on border traffic.

The move by the health board came amid growing resistance in the state to mandatory public health measures to control the virus and skepticism that COVID-19 was even real.

A group of Idaho politicians, including Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, appeared in a video in October urging the state to limit restrictions. Sitting in a truck with an American flag draped over the side, McGeachin placed a gun over a Bible. “We recognize that all of us by nature are free and equal and have certain inalienable rights,” she said. A legislator in the video said “the pandemic may or may not be occurring.”

State Rep. Tony Wisniewski, who represents Kootenai and also appeared in the video, urged the health board to make masks optional. He compared the mask mandate to what he said was a requirement in Nazi Germany to tell authorities if a neighbor was Jewish.

Health board member Allen Banks said he was “deeply suspicious” of tests for COVID-19. In an email to a senator who had criticized the board’s mask mandate, he wrote, “I hope you and the legislators who support your effort will continue to stand for truth rather than the fantasy of a phony disease based on a false test.”

Board member Walt Kirby, who had voted in July to approve the mask mandate initially, was the deciding vote. He opposed a mandate because people were “pretty damn nasty” to him for supporting it before, he explained. “I am not going to vote for it, I am just not because no one is wearing the damn masks anyway,” Kirby said, adding that he wears a mask. As for people who ignore the advice of public health experts, he said, “I am just sitting back and watching them catch it and die and hopefully I will live through it. You know I am 90 years old already and I am not getting involved in it anymore.”

Even as the requirement was rescinded, cases in Kootenai were soaring. The rate of hospitalizations in the border area in northern Idaho is nearly double the rate in the Spokane region. Overall, the number of new cases in Idaho per capita is almost twice that of Washington.


With the county mandate overturned, the city of Coeur d’Alene considered in late October whether to adopt one on its own. Mayor Steve Widmyer and the City Council were inundated with hundreds of emails and telephone calls, many from mask opponents.

“This is Idaho, not Washington or California,” wrote one resident. “Let the people decide if they wish to mask up or not.” Another told the city leaders, “If you want to live with a mask ‘muzzle’ on your face move to California or Washington.”

Ball, Gilliard’s ex-wife, urged Widmyer to support a mandate. “People come here so they don’t have to wear a mask and fill our bars and businesses while spreading covid,” she wrote.

In Coeur d’Alene, the mayor only votes to break a tie among the city councilors. Widmyer, who had complained that city officials “shouldn’t have been put into this position,” didn’t have to vote, because the council approved the mandate 4-2 on Oct. 26. Protesters outside chanted, “No more masks, we will not comply,” and the blowback has been swift. A group of residents is pushing to recall the pro-mandate councilors. The mayor did not respond to interview requests.

While Coeur d’Alene adopted a mandate, nearby Post Falls and Hayden rejected similar proposals. All three cities are less than 20 miles from the Washington border. Idaho Gov. Brad Little has also remained steadfast in opposition to the idea, unlike Iowa’s Reynolds. “Idaho’s health officials have been mindful of the challenges of mitigating spread of COVID-19 in border communities since the onset of the pandemic,” a spokeswoman for Little said in an email. The governor’s “priority at this time is mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in Idaho and preserving health care capacity for those in need.”

For the Panhandle health board, however, the situation became too dire to ignore. On Nov. 19 it reversed itself again and passed a mask mandate for all five of its counties, including Bonner, the site of the blues festival. But county sheriffs have ignored enforcing the mandate or made it a low priority, according to local media.

The move came too late to save Gilliard. “Until everyone in this country can do the same thing, all states on the same page, limit crowd size and mask mandates that are enforced, this is going to happen,” said Ball, his ex-wife. “It only makes sense. Because what we have been doing hasn’t been working.”

Cartoon – Result of Covid Denial

When it comes to Coronavirus and your house party, listen to Anthony Fauci

Cartoon – The Customer is Often Wrong

My son's kindergarten is doing remote learning. It's the worst. | cartoon

An Oregon nurse bragged on TikTok about not wearing a mask outside of work. She’s now on administrative leave.

Nurse placed on leave for bragging on TikTok about not wearing a mask -  Mirror Online

Dressed in blue scrubs and carrying a stethoscope around her neck, an oncology nurse in Salem, Ore., looked to the Grinch as inspiration while suggesting that she ignored coronavirus guidelines outside of work.

In a TikTok video posted Friday, she lip-dubbed a scene from “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” to get her point across to her unaware colleagues: She does not wear a mask in public when she’s not working at Salem Hospital.

“When my co-workers find out I still travel, don’t wear a mask when I’m out and let my kids have play dates,” the nurse wrote in a caption accompanying the video, which has since been deleted.

Following swift online backlash from critics, her employer, Salem Health, announced Saturday that the nurse had been placed on administrative leave. In a statement, the hospital said the nurse, who has not been publicly identified by her employer, “displayed cavalier disregard for the seriousness of this pandemic and her indifference towards physical distancing and masking out of work.”

“We also want to assure you that this one careless statement does not reflect the position of Salem Health or the hardworking and dedicated caregivers who work here,” said the hospital, adding that an investigation is underway.

Salem Health did not respond to The Washington Post’s request for comment as of early Monday.

The nurse’s video offers a startling and rare glimpse of a front-line health-care worker blatantly playing down a virus that has killed at least 266,000 Americans. It also has been seen in some coronavirus patients, some on their deathbeds, who still refuse to believe the pandemic is real.

The incident comes at a time when Oregon has continued to see a spike in new coronavirus cases and virus-related hospitalizations. Just last week, the state’s daily reported deaths and hospitalizations rose by 33.3 and 24.2 percent respectively, according to The Post’s coronavirus tracker. At least 74,120 Oregonians have been infected with the virus since late February; 905 of them have died.

The clip posted to TikTok on Friday shows the nurse mocking the health guidelines while using audio from a scene in which the Grinch reveals his true identity to Cindy Lou Who.

Although the original video was removed, TikTok users have shared a “duet” video posted by another user critical of the nurse, which had more than 274,000 reactions as of early Monday.

Soon after she posted the clip, hundreds took to social media and the hospital’s Facebook page to report the nurse’s video and demand an official response from her employer. Some requested that the nurse be removed from her position and that her license be revoked.

Hospital officials told the Salem Statesman Journal that the investigation is aiming to figure out which other staff members and patients have come in contact with the nurse, who works in the oncology department.

But for some, the hospital’s apologies and actions were not enough.

“The video supplied should be evidence enough,” one Facebook user commented. “She needs to be FIRED. Not on PAID leave. As someone fighting cancer, I can only imagine how her patients feel after seeing this news.”

The hospital thanked those who alerted them of the incident, emphasizing that its staff, patients and visitors must adhere to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

“These policies are strictly enforced among staff from the moment they leave their cars at work to the moment they start driving home,” hospital officials told the Statesman Journal.

Fears of coronavirus jump intensify in Thanksgiving’s aftermath

At a rural health system in Wisconsin, officials and medical experts began drawing up protocols for the once unthinkable practice of deciding which patients should get care. The chief quality officer of a major New York hospital network double- and triple-checked his system’s stockpile of emergency equipment, grimly recalling the last time he had to count how many ventilators he had left. In Arizona, a battle-weary doctor watched in horror as people flooded airports and flocked to stores for Black Friday sales, knowing it was only a matter of time before some of them wound up in his emergency room.

Days after millions of Americans ignored health guidance to avoid travel and large Thanksgiving gatherings, it’s still too soon to tell how many people became infected with the coronavirus over the course of the holiday weekend. But as travelers head home to communities already hit hard by the disease, hospitals and health officials across the country are bracing for what scientist Dave O’Connor called “a surge on top of a surge.”

“It is painful to watch,” said O’Connor, a virologist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. “Like seeing two trains in the distance and knowing they’re about to crash, but you can’t do anything to stop it.”

“Because of the decisions and rationalizations people made to celebrate,” the scientist added, “we’re in for a very dark December.”

The holiday, which is typically one of the busiest travel periods of the year, fell at a particularly dire time in the pandemic. Some 4 million Americans have been diagnosed with the coronavirus in November — twice the previous record, which was set last month. More than 2,000 people are dying every day. Despite that, over a million people passed through U.S. airports the day before Thanksgiving — the highest number of travelers seen since the start of the outbreak.

Many states did not report new case counts over the holiday, and it typically takes about a week for official records to catch up after reporting delays, said Caitlin Rivers, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

But in two to three weeks, she said, “I fully expect on a national level we will see those trends continue of new highs in case counts and hospitalizations and deaths.”

The nation has already notched several bleak milestones over the holiday weekend. On Thanksgiving Day, hospitalizations in the United States exceeded 90,000 people for the first time. The following day, the country hit 13 million cases. At least nine states have seen 1 in every 1,000 residents die of the coronavirus.

Mark Jarret, the chief quality officer for New York’s Northwell Health system, said he understood that many people are tiring of constant vigilance after nine months of isolation and Zoom gatherings and waving at people from six feet away.

“But we’re so close to getting some control,” he said, noting that federal officials are on the verge of authorizing one or more vaccines against the virus next month. “This is not the time to let up. This is the time to put on the best defense we can to prevent further spread, further death.”

Officials urged people who traveled or spent time with people outside their household to stay at home for 14 days to avoid further spread of the virus. Some jurisdictions are moving toward lockdown measures not seen since the spring. Los Angeles County on Friday issued a three-week “safer at home” order, limiting business capacity and prohibiting gatherings other than religious services and protests.

Meanwhile, the December holidays are looming.

“Hopefully people will try to minimize their risks around Christmas, especially if there’s data that show Thanksgiving was really harmful,” O’Connor said.

To Cleavon Gilman, a Navy veteran and emergency room doctor in Yuma, Ariz., the wave of holiday travel was “a slap in the face.”

“It’s as if there’s not a pandemic happening,” he said. “We’re in a war right now, and half the country isn’t on board.”

On Friday, members of the University of Arizona coronavirus modeling team issued an urgent warning to state health officials, projecting that the state will exceed ICU capacity by the beginning of December.

“If action is not immediately taken, then it risks a catastrophe on a scale of the worst natural disaster the state has ever experienced,” the team wrote in a letter to Steven Bailey, chief of the Bureau of Public Health Statistics. “It would be akin to facing a major forest fire without evacuation orders.”

Arizona has no statewide mask mandate, and businesses in many parts of the state, including indoor dining at restaurants, remain open.

Gilman said the intensive care unit at his hospital is full and there’s nowhere to transfer new patients. When he’s home, his mind echoes with the sound of people gasping for breath. He and his colleagues are exhausted, and with cases spiking across the country, he worries there is no way they can handle the surge that will probably follow Thanksgiving celebrations.

In La Crosse, Wis., Gundersen Health System chief executive Scott Rathgaber echoed that fear. “We’ve had to tell our hard-working staff, ‘There’s no one out there to come rescue us,’” he said.

Like many in his college town, Rathgaber is anxious about what will happen when students who spent the holiday with their families return to campus. Though the University of Wisconsin and other schools shifted classes online for the remainder of the semester, he anticipates students who have jobs and apartments in La Crosse will return to town.

“We had trouble the first time the students came back,” Rathgaber said, noting that the start of college classes in September preceded outbreaks in nursing homes and a spike in deaths in La Crosse County. “I will continue to implore, to beg people to take this seriously.”

Gundersen has already more than tripled the size of the covid-19 ward at its main hospital, and even before this week it was almost entirely full. Physicians from the system’s rural clinics have been reassigned to La Crosse to help in the ICU. Staff who may have been exposed to the virus are being called back before completing their 14-day quarantine. And Rathgaber now attends regular meetings with ethicists and end-of-life caregivers to figure out Gundersen’s triage protocol if the hospital becomes overwhelmed.

“We’re not at a breaking point, but we are getting there,” Rathgaber said. “I’m concerned about what the next two weeks will bring.”

Detroit mayor: ‘If you make a commitment to the masks, we don’t have to shut the economy down’

https://thehill.com/homenews/sunday-talk-shows/527884-detroit-mayor-if-you-make-a-commitment-to-the-masks-we-dont-have?rnd=1606667483

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan (D) on Sunday said mitigation efforts such as mask mandates have been effective in reducing coronavirus rates in the city, calling such efforts an alternative to mass shutdowns.

“Detroit actually has the lowest infection rate in the state of Michigan,” Duggan said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “And it’s because behavior changed. In March and April, Michigan was hammered along with New York, and we had within a few weeks, a thousand people hospitalized and 50 of our neighbors dying every day.”

In contrast, he said, the city currently had about 200 patients hospitalized and one or two deaths per day.

“It’s still too high, but the commitment to the testing, the commitment to the masks, has shown that you can dramatically drop the infection rate,” Duggan added.

The mayor noted that the city’s infection rate is about half of those of its surrounding suburbs.

“If you make a commitment to the masks, we don’t have to shut the economy down,” he said.

Asked how the city’s mask mandate and other measures had affected the spread of the virus, Duggan responded that “assembly lines are in our DNA” and pointed to the city’s drive-through testing apparatus.

Duggan went on to say that frontline workers such as firefighters, hospital workers and emergency medical technicians would likely be the first people in the city to receive a coronavirus vaccine, followed by the elderly.

“Occupation is going to go first…then people over the age over 65,” he said. “That’s the way they’re talking about it, I will be really glad when [President-elect] Joe Biden takes control of this and we get clear direction, but we will follow whatever protocols are there.”

We’re celebrating Thanksgiving amid a pandemic. Here’s how we did it in 1918 – and what happened next

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On Thanksgiving more than a century ago, many Americans were living under quarantines, and officials warned people to stay home for the holiday.

More than 200,000 dead since March. Cities in lockdown. Vaccine trials underway.

And a holiday message, of sorts: “See that Thanksgiving celebrations are restricted as much as possible so as to prevent another flare-up.”

It isn’t the message of Thanksgiving 2020. It’s the Thanksgiving Day notice that ran in the Omaha World Herald on Nov. 28, 1918, when Americans found themselves in a similar predicament to the millions now grappling with how to celebrate the holiday season amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Every time I hear someone say these are unprecedented times, I say no, no, they’re not,” said Brittany Hutchinson, assistant curator at the Chicago History Museum. “They did this in 1918.”

On Thanksgiving more than a century ago, many Americans, like today, lived under various phases of quarantines and face mask orders. Millions mourned loved ones. And health officials in many cities issued the same holiday warning: Stay home and stay safe.

Giving thanks for WWI victory, beating pandemic

By late November 1918, the USA – in the midst of the suffrage movement, Jim Crow and the tail end of WWI – battled the ebbing second wave of the H1N1 influenza epidemic, also known as the Spanish flu.

The first cases were detected in the USA in March of that year, growing exponentially by the fall. In October, the virus burned through the nation. Dozens of cities implemented face mask orders and curfews and locked down for two to three weeks, temporarily closing schools, libraries, theaters, movie houses, dance halls, churches, ice cream parlors and soda shops. The virus killed about 195,000 Americans during October alone.

As Thanksgiving rolled around, some cities celebrated the relaxation of flu-related restrictions– partly due to opposition campaigns by retailers, theater owners, unions, mass transportation companies and other economically stressed stakeholders. Washington, Indianapolis and Oakland, California, had lifted restrictions days before, and San Francisco was on the brink of lifting its mask mandate.

San Francisco had one of the nation’s largest anti-masking campaigns, spearheaded by the Anti-Mask League of San Francisco, according to Howard Markel, a professor of the history of medicine at the University of Michigan and co-editor-in chief of The American Influenza Epidemic of 1918-1919. Many people refused to wear masks and were arrested, and when the “line into the courtroom was so long, they laid off arresting people because the system couldn’t enforce it,” Markel said.

On Nov. 13, the San Francisco Examiner reported that “Thanksgiving Day will be celebrated in San Francisco by the discarding of gauze masks, if the present rate of decrease in influenza continues.”

A week later, San Franciscans ceremoniously removed their masks as a whistle sounded across the city at noon. “San Francisco Joyously Discards Masks In Twinkling; Faces Beam As Gauze Covers Come Off At Time Fixed,” the San Francisco Chronicle wrote on its front page Nov. 22.

Resistance to public health measures was not as “vociferous or widespread as today,” but it was there, Markel said. “A lot of these rules and regulations were wrapped up in the patriotism of World War I, and most people followed them. But we don’t have that unifying situation right now. You would think the pandemic would be unifying.”

In some cities, Thanksgiving rituals brought a welcome sense of normalcy. Many Americans returned to religious services, performed charity work and went through with planned football games, parties and performances.

In Portland, a “grand reunion service” was planned for the Sunday after Thanksgiving, “in honor of the reassembling after being debarred from worship on account of the epidemic for the last five weeks.” Members of various congregations were “ready to greet each other after the long absence,” according to the Oregon Daily Journal on Nov. 16.

“The chimes of church bells will once more be heard on Sunday morning throughout the city, beckoning one and all to attend their chosen place of worship, where a double celebration will be held, first over the suppression of autocracy and, second, over the eradication of a frightful plague,” the paper wrote.

Rabbis, priests, pastors and more conveyed a unified message, Hutchinson said – one of “forgiveness and compassion.”

“People are urging to be considerate of one another, to care for one another,” Hutchinson said. “There are messages of putting the smallness of the individual into perspective with the vastness of humanity.”

Other cities were still trending in the opposite direction.

Lockdowns, quarantines on Thanksgiving

By the end of November, cases were rising in cities such as Atlanta, Denver, Louisville, Kentucky, Milwaukee, Omaha, Nebraska, Portland, Oregon, and Richmond, Virginia. Many health experts attributed the “renewal of the grip epidemic” to festivities Nov. 11 – later designated as Armistice Day – when thousands flooded the streets to celebrate the end of WWI.

“It is not the lifting of the closure ban that is the cause of spreading of the epidemic but the putting aside of all precautions and restrictions by the people of Denver when they celebrated on Victory Day,” City Manager of Health and Charity William H. Sharpley told the Denver Post in a story Nov. 21.

On Nov. 27, the day before Thanksgiving, St. Louis reported its highest new daily case count since the epidemic began, and Buffalo, New York, reported its largest jump in daily cases since the lifting of its pandemic ban weeks earlier. Both cities subsequently cracked down on public gatherings, limited the number of passengers on streetcars and ordered those cars to be ventilated and cleaned.

In Salt Lake City, residents were under “quarantine” on Thanksgiving, shops were prohibited from holding sales and celebrations were postponed until Christmas Day. Placards indicating households infected with influenza were placed on the front and rear entrances of 2,000 homes.

“Owing to the influenza quarantine, the day’s festivities … had to be postponed till Christmas day. But Thanksgiving services of some sort are being held in nearly every home,” an article on the front page of the Desert Evening News said. “Because the influenza quarantine prevents public gatherings, the day in Utah is being observed quietly and without any spectacular features.”

Officials in Los Angeles promoted a “Stay at Home Week” over Thanksgiving. The Los Angeles Times issued a call on its front page to “REMEMBER AFFLICTED THANKSGIVING DAY; Influenza Ban Is Felt,” saying, “Thanksgiving Day held many attractions, although in a modified sense.”

“The salvation Army served fifty pounds of turkeys to fifty old men, but dispensed with its usual big dinner to the outcasts at the headquarters, because of the influenza ban,” the Times wrote.

Denver, which was under a face mask order, had just opened three emergency hospitals and issued an urgent call for nurses. Churches were expected to hold Thanksgiving services, but “extra precautions will be taken to guard against spread of epidemic,” the Rocky Mountain News reported the day before. 

“Special pains have been taken to provide all the ventilation necessary and to make attendance at the services safe in spite of the influenza epidemic. In a number of churches electric fans have been placed in the auditoriums so as to change the air every few minutes,” the article said.

In many cities, traditional Thanksgiving Day pageants were held outside. In Cincinnati, which saw a surge in cases among children and firemen, Thanksgiving “exercises” at school were held in auditoriums instead of classrooms to “avoid crowding,” the Cincinnati Enquirer wrote Nov. 28.

A handful of cities began to see a surge in cases on Thanksgiving.

Cities see cases rise on Thanksgiving

Cincinnati health officials “requested parents to forego children’s parties and gatherings during the Thanksgiving vacation,” but the number of hospitalized patients rose on the holiday. Schools added an extra day of vacation to the Thanksgiving holiday break to promote “a beneficial result in the influenza situation.”

“We are not in a happy frame of mind tonight,” Dr. Walter List, superintendent of the city’s General Hospital, told the Cincinnati Enquirer on Thanksgiving. “An institution such as this can stand the strain of an epidemic for five or six weeks, but when it continues for such a long period the situation is complicated.”

Kansas City saw a similar trend. The week of Thanksgiving, the number of flu cases at the city’s General Hospital doubled, and on Thanksgiving Day, city health officials reinstituted home quarantine for influenza victims and their families. Schools on break for Thanksgiving were closed until further notice.

Public dance halls and restaurants were closed on Thanksgiving in Spokane, Washington, and private parties were prohibited. The next day, the city’s emergency hospital received more applications for admission than on any other day during the entire epidemic. On Thanksgiving, “the hospital was filled and death a frequent visitor,” the Spokesman-Review wrote.

Jefferson, Iowa, physician C.W. Blake spent much of his Thanksgiving evening making house calls on people ill from influenza, author Thomas Morain wrote in his 1998 book, “Prairie Grass Roots.” Blake was attending a Thanksgiving dinner at a farm outside town and let the local phone operator know he would be available later in the day. When he received the call about patients in the early evening, the operator had a list of 54 patients who had come down with the flu that day.

“At one farm north of Jefferson a family of four was too sick even to make themselves the most simple meal,” Morain wrote. “While Blake checked each one, (his assistant) made a soup from ingredients on hand and left it for the family.”

Hopes of a vaccine on Thanksgiving

By the fall of 1918, scientists were working on an influenza vaccine, and many were developed and used over the course of the pandemic. Researchers in New York, Boston, Pittsburgh, New Orleans and Seattle developed vaccines, and thousands of people in those cities and many others were inoculated.

Days before Thanksgiving, health officers in Rochester, New York, encouraged people to obtain the vaccine available at a health bureau. In Salt Lake City, the emergency hospital gave more than 100 vaccinations Nov. 30. By early December, free inoculation clinics were established across the city, and thousands of residents lined up for their vaccinations.

The problem? Researchers didn’t know influenza was a virus.

“The vaccine that was made was a vaccine against (a bacteria), which they thought was the cause of influenza,” Markel said. “So not only were vaccines of this era crude and not all that effective, the vaccine that they did produce was for the wrong organism.”

Vaccine science was nowhere near the scientifically advanced level of 2020, said Markel, whose mother died from COVID-19 this year. The study of virology was in its infancy, and researchers didn’t have the tools to see viruses. Though bacteria are much larger and can be viewed under a light microscope, viruses require an electron microscope, which had not been invented in 1918, Markel said.

The vaccines that researchers developed did not stop an impending third wave of the flu.

Third wave of influenza surges after the holidays

Just as cases rose after Armistice Day celebrations, they rose again after Thanksgiving. Dallas, Minneapolis, San Antonio, San Francisco and Seattle saw surges. Omaha relaunched a public health campaign. Parts of Cleveland and its suburbs closed schools and enacted influenza bans in early December.

On Dec. 6, the St. Paul Daily News announced that more than 40 Minneapolis schools were closed because of the flu, below the headline “SANTA CLAUS IS DOWN WITH THE FLU.” Health officials asked “moving picture show” managers to exclude children, closed Sunday schools and ordered department stores to dispense with “Santa Claus programs.”

On Christmas Eve, health officials in Nebraska made influenza a mandatory quarantine disease, and fines ranged from $15 to $100 for violations. Approximately 1,000 homes in Omaha were placarded, meaning their occupants were unable to leave for at least four days after the fever had subsided.

In Denver, the Salvation Army canceled its annual Christmas parties for children, and the Women’s Press Club canceled its New Year’s Eve ball. School Christmas assemblies were canceled in Fall River, Massachusetts, and families with an influenza patient in their homes were warned not to entertain guests and barred from borrowing books from the library.

By January, the USA was fully engulfed in its third wave of influenza. The virus spread throughout the winter and spring, killing thousands more. It infected one-third of the world’s population and killed approximately 675,000 Americans before subsiding in the summer of 1919.

“What did they do wrong? That’s hard to say, but all of these measures are like Swiss cheese. They have holes, so you try to use as many layers as possible,” Markel said. “To me, those surges just represented whether there was social distancing or not. Flu didn’t stop circulating, the question was when did people go out and get exposed to it? And that’s what’s going on now.”

A warning for 2020: ‘Stay home and stay safe’

A century later, the nation has recorded more than 12 million cases of COVID-19, and more than 255,000 people in the USA have died. Dozens of states reimplemented coronavirus-related restrictions, and health officials echo the stay-at-home guidance issued decades ago.

“The risk of not traveling is less than the risk of traveling,” Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, told USA TODAY Wednesday. “During this interesting period of a lot of infection going on, colder weather, indoors: Do you want to travel and go to a Thanksgiving meal where there may be 12, 15, 20 people?”

Fauci said his three adult daughters won’t come home for Thanksgiving this year. Hutchinson, the Chicago-based curator who had COVID-19 in April, said she plans to celebrate Thanksgiving at home with her dog and Facetime family members. Markel, in Ann Arbor, said he plans to eat Thanksgiving dinner alone, downsize from a full turkey to a sliced turkey breast and Zoom with family.

If history tells us anything, Markel said, it’s that “the risk of contracting the virus or spreading the virus by congregating in groups or even traditional holiday parties is right now too great.”

“It is disappointing, but let’s get through this, so we can celebrate many, many more Thanksgivings,” he said. “The better part of valor is to stay home and stay safe.”

U.S. coronavirus hotspots far outpacing Europe’s

America’s coronavirus outbreak has surpassed Europe’s.

Why it mattersIt wasn’t long ago that public health experts were pointing to Europe as a warning sign for the U.S. But the U.S. now has a higher per capita caseload than the EU ever has during its recent surge.

By the numbers: As of Saturday, 15 states had higher per capita caseloads, averaged over seven days, than the European country with the highest caseload — Luxembourg.

  • The U.S. overall saw 52.4 cases per 100,000 people. The EU saw 37.6 per 100,000 on Saturday, and peaked at 46.7 cases per 100,000 on Nov. 8.

The big pictureEurope’s steady rise in coronavirus cases over the last couple of months prompted many countries to bring back lockdowns or other strict behavioral restrictions.

  • Meanwhile, in the U.S., some of the hardest-hit states — like Iowa — are just now adopting mask mandates, and airports over the weekend were packed with people traveling for Thanksgiving.

Yes, but: Cases in the hardest-hit states are starting to trend down, a sign that people are modifying their behavior on their own.

What we’re watching: There’s no sign that the number of U.S. cases nationally is going to stop rising anytime soon, especially in the absence of strong federal or state restrictions.

  • Hospitalizations and deaths lag behind cases by a few weeks. That means that Europe likely has easier days ahead, while America’s dark days are just getting started.
  • In the U.S., today’s overwhelmed hospitals will continue to keep getting hit with ever-growing caseloads for awhile.

Go deeper: See all U.S. states’ and EU countries’ per capita caseloads.

1,000 Cleveland Clinic workers sidelined due to COVID-19

Cleveland Clinic fires doctor who posted anti-semitic comments, threats on  social media | Healthcare Finance News

Cleveland Clinic has about 1,000 employees away from work due to COVID-19, the health system told Becker’s Nov. 23.

The count includes 925 workers in Ohio and other workers across the health system, which also has locations in Florida and Las Vegas. It is an increase from about 800 Cleveland Clinic employees in Ohio reported sidelined as of Nov. 16.

Cleveland Clinic spokesperson Andrea Pacetti said the increase in the number of employees affected by COVID-19 reflects more spreading of the virus in the community and in Ohio, and most affected employees are contracting the virus in the community. 

Due to a surge in cases, Cleveland Clinic has taken steps to ensure enough staffing to meet patients’ needs, said Ms. Pacetti. This includes shifting some employees to different areas of the health system to enable Cleveland Clinic to expand bed capacity for COVID-19 patients.

“We are also evaluating our surgical schedule weekly based on hospital occupancy and admissions of patients with COVID-19,” Ms. Pacetti said. “Our leadership meets every day and reviews our staffing to ensure we can provide the highest quality care to all our patients.”

Cleveland Clinic also urges the public to help reduce the spread of the virus so the health system can continue to care for COVID-19 patients and patients who need care but who don’t have the coronavirus. 

“This isn’t just a Cleveland Clinic issue, but true for the whole state. We are asking the community to follow guidelines — wear masks, social distance and wash your hands — so we can keep our medical teams healthy,” Ms. Pacetti said.

Cleveland Clinic has about 50,000 employees in Ohio. 

Now the U.S. Has Lots of Ventilators, but Too Few Specialists to Operate Them

A patient was placed on a ventilator in a hospital in Yonkers, N.Y., in April.

As record numbers of coronavirus cases overwhelm hospitals across the United States, there is something strikingly different from the surge that inundated cities in the spring: No one is clamoring for ventilators.

The sophisticated breathing machines, used to sustain the most critically ill patients, are far more plentiful than they were eight months ago, when New York, New Jersey and other hard-hit states were desperate to obtain more of the devices, and hospitals were reviewing triage protocols for rationing care. Now, many hot spots face a different problem: They have enough ventilators, but not nearly enough respiratory therapists, pulmonologists and critical care doctors who have the training to operate the machines and provide round-the-clock care for patients who cannot breathe on their own.

Since the spring, American medical device makers have radically ramped up the country’s ventilator capacity by producing more than 200,000 critical care ventilators, with 155,000 of them going to the Strategic National Stockpile. At the same time, doctors have figured out other ways to deliver oxygen to some patients struggling to breathe — including using inexpensive sleep apnea machines or simple nasal cannulas that force air into the lungs through plastic tubes.

But with new cases approaching 200,000 per day and a flood of patients straining hospitals across the country, public health experts warn that the ample supply of available ventilators may not be enough to save many critically ill patients.

“We’re now at a dangerous precipice,” said Dr. Lewis Kaplan, president of the Society of Critical Care Medicine. Ventilators, he said, are exceptionally complex machines that require expertise and constant monitoring for the weeks or even months that patients are tethered to them. The explosion of cases in rural parts of Idaho, Ohio, South Dakota and other states has prompted local hospitals that lack such experts on staff to send patients to cities and regional medical centers, but those intensive care beds are quickly filling up.

Public health experts have long warned about a shortage of critical care doctors, known as intensivists, a specialty that generally requires an additional two years of medical training. There are 37,400 intensivists in the United States, according to the American Hospital Association, but nearly half of the country’s acute care hospitals do not have any on staff, and many of those hospitals are in rural areas increasingly overwhelmed by the coronavirus.

“We can’t manufacture doctors and nurses in the same way we can manufacture ventilators,” said Dr. Eric Toner, an emergency room doctor and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “And you can’t teach someone overnight the right settings and buttons to push on a ventilator for patients who have a disease they’ve never seen before. The most realistic thing we can do in the short run is to reduce the impact on hospitals, and that means wearing masks and avoiding crowded spaces so we can flatten the curve of new infections.”

Medical association message boards in states like Iowa, Oklahoma and North Dakota are awash in desperate calls for intensivists and respiratory therapists willing to temporarily relocate and help out. When New York City and hospitals in the Northeast issued a similar call for help this past spring, specialists from the South and the Midwest rushed there. But because cases are now surging nationwide, hospital officials say that most of their pleas for help are going unanswered.

Dr. Thomas E. Dobbs, the top health official in Mississippi, said that more than half the state’s 1,048 ventilators were still available, but that he was more concerned with having enough staff members to take care of the sickest patients.

“If we want to make sure that someone who’s hospitalized in the I.C.U. with the coronavirus has the best chance to get well, they need to have highly trained personnel, and that cannot be flexed up rapidly,” he said in a news briefing on Tuesday.

Dr. Matthew Trump, a critical care specialist at UnityPoint Health in Des Moines, said that the health chain’s 21 hospitals had an adequate supply of ventilators for now, but that out-of-state staff reinforcements might be unlikely to materialize as colleagues fall ill and the hospital’s I.C.U. beds reach capacity.

“People here are exhausted and burned out from the past few months,” he said. “I’m really concerned.”

The domestic boom in ventilator production has been a rare bright spot in the country’s pandemic response, which has been marred by shortages of personal protective equipment, haphazard testing efforts and President Trump’s mixed messaging on the importance of masks, social distancing and other measures that can dent the spread of new infections.

Although the White House has sought to take credit for the increase in new ventilators, medical device executives say the accelerated production was largely a market-driven response turbocharged by the national sense of crisis. Mr. Trump invoked the wartime Defense Production Act in late March, but federal health officials have relied on government contracts rather than their authority under the act to compel companies to increase the production of ventilators.

Scott Whitaker, president of AdvaMed, a trade association that represents many of the country’s ventilator manufacturers, said the grave situation had prompted a “historic mobilization” by the industry. “We’re confident that our companies are well positioned to mobilize as needed to meet demand,” he said in an email.

Public health officials in Minnesota, Mississippi, Utah and other states with some of the highest per capita rates of infection and hospitalization have said they are comfortable with the number of ventilators currently in their hospitals and their stockpiles.

Mr. Whitaker said AdvaMed’s member companies were making roughly 700 ventilators a week before the pandemic; by the summer, weekly output had reached 10,000. The juggernaut was in part fueled by unconventional partnerships between ventilator companies and auto giants like Ford and General Motors.

Chris Brooks, chief strategy officer at Ventec Life Systems, which collaborated with G.M. to fill a $490 million contract for the Department of Health and Human Services, said the shared sense of urgency enabled both companies to overcome a thicket of supply-chain and logistical challenges to produce 30,000 ventilators over four months at an idled car parts plant in Indiana. Before the pandemic, Ventec’s average monthly output was 100 to 200 machines.

“When you’re focused with one team and one mission, you get things done in hours that would otherwise take months,” he said. “You just find a way to push through any and all obstacles.”

Despite an overall increase in the number of ventilators, some researchers say many of the new machines may be inadequate for the current crisis. Dr. Richard Branson, an expert on mechanical ventilation at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and an author of a recent study in the journal Chest, said that half of the new devices acquired by the Strategic National Stockpile were not sophisticated enough for Covid-19 patients in severe respiratory distress. He also expressed concern about the long-term viability of machines that require frequent maintenance.

“These devices were not built to be stockpiled,” he said.

The Department of Health and Human Services, which has acknowledged the limitations of its newly acquired ventilators, said the stockpile — nine times as large as it was in March — was well suited for most respiratory pandemics. “These stockpiled devices can be used as a short-term, stopgap buffer when the immediate commercial supply is not sufficient or available,” the agency said in a statement.

Projecting how many people will end up requiring mechanical breathing assistance is an inexact science, and many early assumptions about how the coronavirus affects respiratory function have evolved.

During the chaotic days of March and April, emergency room doctors were quick to intubate patients with dangerously low oxygen levels. They subsequently discovered other ways to improve outcomes, including placing patients on their stomachs, a protocol known as proning that helps improve lung function. The doctors also learned to embrace the use of pressurized oxygen delivered through the nose, or via BiPAP and CPAP machines, portable devices that force oxygen into a patient’s airways.

Many health care providers initially hesitated to use such interventions for fear the pressurized air would aerosolize the virus and endanger health care workers. The risks, it turned out, could be mitigated through the use of respirator masks and other personal protective gear, said Dr. Greg Martin, the chief of pulmonary and critical care at Grady Health Systems in Atlanta.

“The familiarity of taking care of so many Covid patients, combined with good data, has just made everything we do 100 times easier,” he said.

Some of the earliest data about the perils of intubating coronavirus patients turned out to be incomplete and misleading. Dr. Susan Wilcox, a critical care specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital, said many providers were spooked by data that suggested an 80 percent mortality rate among ventilated coronavirus patients, but the actual death rate turned out to be much lower. The mortality rate at her hospital, she said, was about 25 to 30 percent.

“Some people were saying that we should intubate almost immediately because we were worried patients would crash and have untoward consequences if we waited,” she said. “But we’ve learned to just go back to the principles of good critical care.”

Survival rates have increased significantly at many hospitals, a shift brought about by the introduction of therapeutics like dexamethasone, a powerful steroid that Mr. Trump took when he was hospitalized with the coronavirus. The changing demographics of the pandemic — a growing proportion of younger patients with fewer health risks — have also played a role in the improving survival rates.

Dr. Nikhil Jagan, a critical care pulmonologist at CHI Health, a hospital chain that serves Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska, said many of the coronavirus patients who were arriving at his emergency room now were less sick than the patients he treated in the spring.

“There’s a lot more awareness about the symptoms of Covid-19,” he said. “The first go-around, when people came in, they were very sick right off the bat and in respiratory distress or at the point of respiratory failure and had to be intubated.”

But the promising new treatments and enhanced knowledge can go only so far should the current surge in cases continue unabated. The country passed 250,000 deaths from the coronavirus last week, a reminder that many critically ill patients do not survive. The daily death toll has been rising steadily and is approaching 2,000.

“Ventilators are important in critical care but they don’t save people’s lives,” said Dr. Branson of the University of Cincinnati. “They just keep people alive while the people caring for them can figure out what’s wrong and fix the problem. And at the moment, we just don’t have enough of those people.”

For now, he said there was only one way out the crisis: “It’s not that hard,” he said. “Wear a mask.”