Nashville police are criminally charging three women including a registered nurse for violating Metro Health orders after hosting a large house party on Halloween.
Roommates Madilyn Dennington, Bailey Mills and Olivia Noe, all 23, were issued misdemeanor citations in connection with an Oct. 31 football watch party at their East Nashville home on the 1200 block of Boscobel Street south of Fatherland Street.
Police spokesman Don Aaron said the women were served with court summonses on Monday and are slated to appear on the charges Dec. 16.
According to an arrest affidavit, officers responded about 6:30 p.m. to a complaint about a loud party at the home, heard music blaring and saw several people in the yard. In all, police said they found more than 100 people inside and outside the home.
When officers spoke to Dennington, Mills and Noe outside, they told police they had organized a watch party at their home for a football game, the affidavit states. The officers told the women that at that time, no more than 25 people were permitted to gather in Davidson County unless the gathering was approved by the city.
The women then went inside and told everyone to leave, police reported.
Police then alerted Metro Health officials about the party. Hugh Atkins, Metro Health’s environmental health services director, confirmed the Health Department did not receive an event application for the gathering.
Early last week, Nashville instituted a “rule of eight,” limiting both public and private events to eight people as the holidays approached — down from the previous 25-person cap. Tighter capacity restrictions on restaurants and bars went into effect in the city on Monday.
On Tuesday, Davidson County reportedan increase of 851 cases in 24 hours — the second-highest ever daily increase. So far 369 people in Nashville have died from the virus.
Meanwhile, Monday’s statewide numbers marked a record high increase in cases. The Tennessee Department of Health announced an increase of 7,975 cases and 48 deaths over the previous 24 hours. So far the virus had caused 4,602 deaths statewide.
A nurse and her roommates
Dennington is a registered nurse at TriStar Skyline Medical Center, authorities said.
It was not immediately known whether the hospital had taken any disciplinary action against Dennington. She did not return an immediate request for comment and blocked her Facebook page from a Tennessean reporter shortly after being contacted.
“Properly following pandemic regulations is extremely important to help reduce the spread of COVID-19,” Anna-Lee Cockrill, a spokeswoman for TriStar, said regarding the party. “We are looking into this further.”
According to their social media pages, all three roommates formerly attended the University of Mississippi before moving to Nashville, and Dennington and Noe both graduated from the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
Noe and Mills also could not immediately be reached for comment.
More than 50 arrests, 315 citations
Police data shows at least 50 people have been arrested and more than 315 have been cited under local emergency health orders that went into effect earlier this year.
Just this weekend, Nashville police issued nine citations and made one arrest after people refused to wear face masks in public, a mandated action in Davidson County.
As of late November at least dozen people had been arrested on Class A misdemeanor charges after police said they held large house parties and events. Some of them entertained as many as 600 people at a time, police reported. If convicted, they face up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.
As of Tuesday, only one of the arrested defendants had pleaded guilty: Jeffrey Mathews, a 36-year-old Goodlettsville dentist arrested for throwing an Aug. 1 house party on Fern Avenue in East Nashville. He was one of two men criminally charged for the party that drew hundreds.
Mathews, who apologized for his actions, was sentenced to three months of probation and eight hours of community service. His co-defendant, Christopher “Shi” Eubank, 40, remained at large Tuesday after failing to appear in court in October for a hearing on three counts of violating emergency health orders.
This is a developing story.
More than 100,200 Americans were hospitalized as of Wednesday due to the coronavirus for the first time since the outbreak began in early 2020, per the COVID Tracking Project.
The big picture: The milestone comes as health officials anticipated cases to surge due to holiday travel and gatherings. The impact of the holiday remains notable, as many states across the country are only reporting partial data.
- Meanwhile, more hospitals are running out of beds or turning away new patients, limiting the care available to both coronavirus patients and those with other health care emergencies, Axios Caitlin Owens reports.
Flashback: The daily rate of new coronavirus infections rose by about 10% in week leading up to Thanksgiving, continuing a dismal trend that may get even worse in the weeks to come.
- Before the Thanksgiving holiday, the COVID Tracking Project warned of a “double-weekend pattern.
- “Far fewer people will be tested on Thanksgiving Day, and perhaps on the day after as well, and then the usual weekend pattern will begin,” it said.
- “Death reporting, too, will slow down for an unknown number of days.”
What to watch: That backlog is expected to clear sometime this week, resulting in a potentially confusing surge on all metrics in the meantime.
By the numbers: The U.S. reported 13.7 million cases (confirmed and probable), 1.4 million tests, 196,000 cases and 2,733 deaths on Wednesday.
- To date, 264,522 people in the country have died from the virus.
- California confirmed more than 20,000 COVID-19 infections on Wednesday — the highest daily case count for any state so far during the pandemic.
- Wednesday’s death count is the second highest on record since May 7, and marks the first time deaths have topped 5,000 over a two-day stretch.
More than 100,000 Americans are now in the hospital with coronavirus infections — a new record, an indication that the pandemic is continuing to get worse and a reminder that the virus is still very dangerous.
Why it matters: Hospitalizations are a way to measure severe illnesses — and severe illnesses are on the rise across the U.S. In some areas, health systems and health care workers are already overwhelmed, and outbreaks are only getting worse.
By the numbers: For weeks, every available data point has said the same thing — that the pandemic is as bad as it’s ever been in the U.S.
- Yesterday’s grim new milestone represents an 11% increase in hospitalizations over the past week, and a 26% jump over the past two weeks.
- Hospitalizations are rising in 38 states, in some cases reaching unsustainable levels.
A staggering 29% of all the hospital beds in Nevada are occupied by coronavirus patients, the highest rate in the country.
- That represents an enormous influx of new patients, on top of all the other people who are in the hospital for other reasons — which puts a serious strain on hospitals’ overall capacity, and on the doctors and nurses who staff them.
- Fueled by that surge in coronavirus patients, 77% of Nevada’s inpatient beds and 80% of its intensive-care beds are now in use, according to federal data. And coronavirus infections are continuing to rise, so many more beds will soon be full.
Between the lines: Many rural areas already have more patients than they can handle, prompting local hospitals to send their coronavirus patients to the nearest city with some capacity left to spare. But as cases keep rising, everyone’s capacity shrinks.
- In New Mexico, for example, coronavirus patients are using 27% of hospital beds. To put that number in perspective: It’s a surge that has left the entire state with just 16 ICU beds left to spare.
Coronavirus patients are also filling 20% of the hospital beds in Colorado and Arizona. And in 32 more states, at least 10% of all hospital beds have a coronavirus patient in them.
How it works: Each week, Axios has been tracking the change in new coronavirus cases. But the Thanksgiving holiday disrupted states’ reporting of those numbers, and we’re afraid that could paint a distorted picture this week.
- The holiday led to some significant reporting delays, which would make the number of new cases seem artificially low — and then when states report that backlog of data all at once, the spike in cases could be artificially high.
- Hospitalization data is not subject to the same reporting issues, so we’re using that this week as a more reliable measure of where the pandemic stands.
President-elect Joe Biden’s front-runner for secretary of Health and Human Services is New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, and he may announce several of his administration’s health leaders as soon as next week, according to people familiar with the matter.
The position of HHS secretary is down to two possibilities, the people said, between Lujan Grisham and former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, a co-chair of the coronavirus advisory board Biden appointed shortly after he was elected.
Biden’s health team will assume office with the U.S. still suffering from the pandemic, as virus cases and hospitalizations soared over the past month. His health secretary is expected to have input on filling other top health posts, such as FDA commissioner and the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the people said, so those appointments may not be announced until later.
The Health and Human Services secretary will have the tough task of rebuilding Obamacare, which Biden has promised to expand. That will be a difficult undertaking with a Republican-led Senate.
Murthy or Jeff Zients, who led the Obama administration effort to repair healthcare.gov, the faulty Obamacare website, may be named to a leadership role on the pandemic, according to the people familiar with the matter — a “Covid-19 czar.”
Mandy Cohen, the North Carolina state health secretary, is a favorite for CMS, the people said. Biden’s choices to lead the Food and Drug Administration appear narrowed down to David Kessler, a former commissioner of the agency who is another co-chair of his coronavirus advisory board, and Joshua Sharfstein, a former FDA official who is a vice dean at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Biden announced his economic team on Tuesday, a group led by Treasury Secretary-designate Janet Yellen whose top priority will be restoring jobs eliminated by the pandemic. An announcement on some of his health team could come as soon as Monday, the people said.
The people familiar with the matter asked not to be identified because talks are still ongoing and no final decision has been made. It’s not clear how many people will be announced at once, or which positions would later be filled by the health secretary once the Biden administration is in place.
Biden’s transition team did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The U.S. recorded 158,000 new coronavirus infections on Monday and a record 205,000 cases three days earlier. Biden will take office as distribution of coronavirus vaccines ramps up, and he has warned that any delay in the transition to his administration could slow or complicate that endeavor.
Lujan Grisham is seen as having an easier path to confirmation than Murthy, who has spoken out against gun violence as a public health threat and may draw strong opposition from Senate Republicans as a result, the people familiar with the matter said.
If he isn’t nominated to lead HHS, Murthy is under consideration as Covid-19 czar or another role, including a second stint as surgeon general, the people said. Murthy talks to Biden almost every day as co-chair of his advisory board and is seen as having influential supporters.
Murthy and Zients have also represented Biden’s transition team on calls with current HHS officials, two of the people said.
Biden’s team is still discussing what the White House coronavirus task force and Operation Warp Speed — the Trump administration’s effort to fast-track vaccines — will look like under the new administration.
If Biden announces his health team next week, he may be just days ahead of the first emergency FDA approval of a coronavirus vaccine. President Donald Trump is planning a vaccine summit next week at the White House, while an FDA advisory panel is scheduled to meet on Dec. 10 to discuss the shots.
Many of the state’s hospitals have maintained lower numbers of beds in part to limit the length of patient stays and lower costs. But that approach is now being tested.
For all its size and economic might, California has long had few hospital beds relative to its population, a shortfall that state officials now say may prove catastrophic.
California is experiencing its largest surge in coronavirus cases with an average of nearly 15,000 new cases a day, an increase of 50 percent from the previous record over the summer.
So even though the state has some of the country’s most restrictive measures to prevent the spread of the virus, an influx of people with severe cases of Covid-19 may force overwhelmed hospitals to turn patients away by Christmas, Gov. Gavin Newsom warned this week.
A dearth of hospital beds has been a worldwide problem throughout the pandemic, but California, with a population of 40 million, has a particularly acute shortage. The wealthiest state in the wealthiest country has 1.8 hospital beds per 1,000 people, a level that exceeds only two states, Washington and Oregon, according to 2018 data compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation. California has one-third the number of beds per capita as Poland.
Many hospitals in California have maintained lower numbers of beds in part to limit the length of patient stays and lower costs. But that approach is now being tested.
In addition to beds, a shortage of nursing staff will make handling the surge of virus cases “extraordinarily difficult for us in California,” said Carmela Coyle, the head of the California Hospital Association, which represents 400 hospitals across the state.
“This pandemic is a story of shortage, whether it is shortages of personal protective equipment, shortages of testing supplies, shortages of the trained staff needed to deal with these patients,” Ms. Coyle said. “It’s what has made this pandemic unique and different from other disasters.”
Also unlike other catastrophes, California will not be able to rely on other states for assistance. Mutual aid has been a cornerstone in its planning for disasters, requesting, for example, thousands of firefighters from neighboring states to help in dousing the mega-fires of recent years.
But with so many parts of the country struggling with the coronavirus at the same time, there are few traveling nurses available or nearby hospital beds to spare.
“You have to think of this as a natural disaster, like an earthquake — there’s a lot of need for hospitalization,” said Dr. George Rutherford, a professor of epidemiology at the University of California, San Francisco. “But the difference here is that it’s happening across the country. We can’t send people to Reno, Phoenix or Tucson. We’re stuck.”
The state government says it has 11 surge facilities, or alternative setups, including mothballed medical buildings and at least one sports arena, ready if hospitals become overloaded.
Beyond California, hospitals have been scrambling in recent weeks to handle a new rush of patients, particularly in parts of the Sun Belt and New England that had largely avoided coronavirus spikes in the spring and summer. The country is likely to hit a record 100,000 hospitalizations this week.CALIFORNIA TODAY: The news and stories that matter to Californians (and anyone else interested in the state).Sign Up
As hospitals exceed or get close to exceeding their capacity for coronavirus patients, state and local officials have been opening hospitals in parking lots or unoccupied buildings.
In Rhode Island, where infections have rapidly increased in recent weeks, a field hospital opened on Monday in the state’s second-largest city, Cranston. At a cost of $8 million, a former call center for Citizens Bank was converted into a 335-bed field hospital. In New Mexico, a vacant medical center in Albuquerque was being used for recovering coronavirus patients. “We are seeing the worst rates that we’ve seen since the pandemic hit,” Mayor Tim Keller said in a recent interview.
Nancy Foster, the American Hospital Association’s vice president for quality and patient safety policy, said hospital systems that are busy during the pandemic have not yet fully examined how they could have been better prepared. But she said the lack of hospital beds in many states reflected pre-Covid times.
“In an era when you’re focused on reducing the cost of health care, having excess capacity — that you’re heating and lighting and cleaning and all of that stuff — is just antithetical to your efforts to be as lean as possible, to be as cost-efficient as possible,” Ms. Foster said. “So we’re going to have some critical thinking around what’s that right balance between keeping costs low and being prepared in case a disaster happens.”
The number of hospital beds in California has declined over time partly because of a trend toward more outpatient care, said Kristof Stremikis, an expert on the state’s hospital system at the California Health Care Foundation. But more acute than the shortage of beds, Mr. Stremikis says, are staffing shortages, especially in regions with high concentrations of Black, Latino and Native American patients.
“The system is blinking red when it comes to the work force,” Mr. Stremikis said. “It’s nurses, doctors, allied health professionals — we don’t have enough of many different types of clinicians in California and they’re not in the right places. It’s a huge issue.”
Mr. Newsom has said California would draw from a registry of retired or nonpracticing health care workers and deploy them to hospitals.
But Ms. Coyle, the head of the California Hospital Association, says she does not think volunteers can bridge the gap.
“We are down to a very, very small fraction who are willing to serve,” she said. “Those volunteers were not trained at a level to be as helpful in a hospital setting.”
At the county level, health officers are counting down the days until their hospitals are full. On Sunday, California became the first state to record more than 100,000 cases in a week, according to a New York Times database. The state government estimates that about 12 percent of cases end up in a hospital.
Dr. Sara Cody, the chief health officer for Santa Clara County, which includes a large slice of Silicon Valley, projects that hospitals in the county will reach capacity by mid-December.
“This is the most difficult phase of the pandemic so far,” Dr. Cody said. “Everyone is tired.”
She is expecting a spike in cases from Thanksgiving gatherings, which could accelerate the timeline, she said.
Few states have been as aggressive in combating the pandemic as California, which now has a stockpile of a half-billion face masks. Los Angeles last week announced a ban on gatherings with other households. In Santa Clara County, hotels are now only reserved for essential travel and a ban on contact sports is forcing the San Francisco 49ers to play home games in Arizona.
“We have done everything that we can do as local leaders and health officials,” said Dr. Cody, who led the effort in March to put in place the country’s first shelter-in-place order. “We have worked as hard as we can work. We have tried everything that we know how to do. But without bold action at the state or federal level we are not going to be able to slow this down. We are not an island.”
Across California a weary populace wondered about the effectiveness of the state’s measures.
In Los Angeles, local officials were under fire after hundreds of tests scheduled for Tuesday at Union Station were canceled because of a film shoot, a remake of the 1990s romantic comedy “She’s All That.” People who had scheduled tests were informed of the cancellation on Monday afternoon, and it was not until after midnight that Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the tests were back on.
The filming was still taking place on Tuesday morning as Wendy Ambriz swabbed her mouth at the station’s testing kiosk.
Ms. Ambriz did not think the county’s restriction of outdoor dining, which went into effect last week, was necessary, noting that kitchen staffs are fastidious about cleanliness. But she did not blame government officials for the coronavirus spiraling out of control in Southern California.
“People don’t really follow directions,” she said.
That assessment appears to hold true for some of the state’s officials.
Sheila Kuehl, who sits on the county board of supervisors, was spotted at an Italian restaurant in Santa Monica hours after publicly calling outdoor dining “a most dangerous situation” and voting to ban it. In a statement on Monday, Ms. Kuehl’s office noted that the ban had not yet gone into effect when the dinner occurred. Her meal recalled another moment of apparent hypocrisy, a meal attended by Mr. Newsom and a gaggle of lobbyists at the luxurious French Laundry restaurant in Napa Valley just as the governor was advising residents to avoid meeting with large groups.
Outside the Broad Street Oyster Company in Malibu last week, picnic tables were cordoned off and the restaurant was not seating customers. But that did not stop people from eating there — they just ducked under the tape.