U.S. coronavirus hospitalizations hit three-month high over 50,000

(Reuters) – The number of coronavirus patients in U.S. hospitals breached 50,000 on Tuesday, the highest level in nearly three months, as a surge in infections threatens to push the nation’s health care system to the edge of capacity.

Texas reported the highest number of currently hospitalized patients with 5,936, followed by Illinois with 3,594 and California with 3,270 patients, according to a Reuters tally. While California has three times as many people as Illinois, new cases have been the highest per capita in the Midwest.

Nationally, the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients rose over 64% since Oct. 1 to 50,176 on Tuesday, the highest since Aug. 7. The figure is still short of the record 58,370 hospitalizations set on July 22, according to a Reuters tally.

Hospitalizations are a key metric because, unlike case counts, they are not influenced by the number of tests performed.

As millions of Americans voted in Tuesday’s presidential election, the number of cases in the country surpassed 9.4 million, rising by 1 million in just two weeks.

On Friday, the United States set a world record by reporting over 100,000 new infections in a single day.

Southern U.S. states, led by Texas, have the highest number of coronavirus hospitalizations with nearly 20,000 patients or 40% of the national total, followed by the Midwest, West and Northeast.

Hospitals in Wisconsin and Texas have been rushing to find more beds for coronavirus patients, as the state’s medical facilities struggle to keep pace with a surge in new infections. The Texas city of El Paso has converted a convention center into a field hospital to treat the overflow.

Health experts believe the virus is surging because of private social gatherings, colder temperatures driving people inside, and Americans’ fatigue with COVID-19 restrictions that have now been in place for more than six months.

For every 10,000 people in the United States, over 278 coronavirus cases have been reported and about seven people have died, according to a Reuters analysis. In Europe there have been over 127 cases and nearly four deaths per 10,000 residents.

The White House coronavirus task force warned of a persistent and broad spread of COVID-19 in the western half of the United States and its members urged aggressive mitigation measures.