The biggest concern with COVID-19 is “the issue with hospitalizations,” Fox News medical contributor Dr. Marc Siegel warned on Monday as nearly 70,000 Americans are currently hospitalized.
“Now we’re seeing more cases because there is not enough public health compliance,” Siegel told “Fox & Friends” on Monday. “And that’s a big problem for me when the hospitals start to get full.”
As of Sunday, 69,987 hospitalizations have been reported in the United States, with 13,697 in intensive care units, according to data compiled by the COVID Tracking Project.
On Friday, Johns Hopkins University reported more than 177,000 new coronavirus cases and more than 166,000 new cases on Saturday. On Sunday, that number dropped to 133,045 new cases.
Siegel told host Ainsley Earhardt on Monday that he recently spoke with one of the top health officials in North Dakota and noted that the state “has got a big problem because the hospitals are not only full, but they don’t have enough staffing.”
On Friday evening, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum announced a mask mandate for the state, as confirmed coronavirus cases rose to record levels.
Masks must be worn inside businesses, indoor public spaces and in outside public spaces when social distancing is impossible, the North Dakota rules state.
The order, signed by interim State Health Officer Dirk Wilke, takes effect immediately and will run through Dec. 13. It is intended to help alleviate hospitals overwhelmed by virus patients, a news release from the governor said.
“Our doctors and nurses heroically working on the front lines need our help, and they need it now,” Burgum, a Republican, said in a video message announcing the measures. “Since the beginning, we’ve taken a data-driven approach to our pandemic response, focusing on saving lives and livelihoods. Right now, the data demands a higher level of mitigation efforts to reverse these dangerous trends, to slow the spread of this virus and to avoid the need for economic shutdowns.”
Among other safety measures, all bars and restaurants in the state will be limited to 50% capacity and must be closed for dine-in services between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. Event venues are limited to 25 % capacity.
All high school winter sports and other extracurricular K-12 school activities will be suspended until Dec. 14.
CUOMO CRACKS DOWN ON BARS, GYMS, RESTAURANTS AS CORONAVIRUS CASES CLIMB AGAIN
Siegel said that he learned that in North Dakota, because of the staffing shortage, “When people are coming down with COVID, very tragically nurses that have gotten sick have been asked to come back even while they are sick.”
He added that “the North Dakota Nurses Association is fighting that.”
Gov. Burgum has allowed the state’s beleaguered hospitals to use infected, but asymptomatic workers to treat COVID-19 patients, the Associated Press reported. The move is permitted under Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
Burgum reportedly said his decision could help North Dakota’s hospitals, which are at or near capacity after an increase in cases that began over the summer and has only gotten worse.
“All of this is occurring because in that state in particular and others around it, people are gathering too much,” Siegel said. “There’s too much close contact, there’s no masking, there’s not enough distancing and there isn’t enough testing.”
Like some of his Republican counterparts in other states that have had big spikes in coronavirus cases, Burgum for months took an approach that puts the responsibility for slowing the spread of the virus on individuals rather than government mandates in an effort to protect “both lives and livelihoods.” However, on Friday he relented and ordered the statewide mask mandate as the virus has become widespread in North Dakota, which now regularly breaks its daily record highs for cases and deaths.
Siegel noted that North Dakota and South Dakota “were paradigms for a very, very effective response early on.”
“The governor of South Dakota didn’t lock down the state and the state did very, very well,” he went on to say. “Now we’re seeing more cases because there is not enough public health compliance.”
Other governors are implementing new coronavirus restrictions as cases rise from coast to coast.
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Among them, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered bars, gyms and restaurants to close at 10 p.m., Vermont Gov. Phil Scott banned “multi-household” gatherings and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam limited gatherings to 25 people as confirmed coronavirus cases rose to record levels.
Fox News’ Brie Stimson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.