36 more virus deaths recorded in day as hospitals gird for influx of patients

Testing rates, daily diagnoses slide after holiday weekend; number of serious cases climbs to 653; Supreme Court president enters quarantine after aide contracts virus

A Shaare Zedek staffer wears protective gear as he takes a swab from a woman to test for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), outside the coronavirus unit at the hospital in Jerusalem on September 14, 2020. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
A Shaare Zedek staffer wears protective gear as he takes a swab from a woman to test for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), outside the coronavirus unit at the hospital in Jerusalem on September 14, 2020. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

The Health Ministry on Monday recorded 36 more coronavirus deaths in 24 hours, bringing the toll since the start of the pandemic to 1,273.

The ministry tally saw 2,641 new COVID-19 cases diagnosed since Sunday night and 24,487 tests conducted on Sunday. The figure was lower than recent days, and may have been the result of fewer tests run over the holiday weekend. Last week saw over 50,000 tests on most days.

Figures on Monday showed close to 11 percent of tests were confirmed positive.

Of the 52,876 active coronavirus cases, 653 were in serious condition, 169 of them on ventilators. Another 279 are in moderate condition, with the rest displaying mild or no symptoms.

Also Monday, Supreme Court President Esther Hayut was ordered into quarantine after her aide contracted the coronavirus.

Soroka Medical Center staff members at the hospital’s coronavirus ward, in Be’er Sheva, on September 15, 2020. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

Hospitals in Jerusalem and Ashdod announced earlier on Monday that they could no longer take in additional coronavirus patients, due to overload.

The announcements by Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center and Ashdod’s Assuta Medical Center came as Health Ministry Director General Chezy Levy ordered all hospitals to suspend elective surgeries and dedicate all of their resources to the pandemic response.

“We expect to end the next 10 days with an increase of 200-300 serious, ventilated or critical patients,” wrote Levy. “I ask you to treat this situation as an emergency situation for the healthcare system. Hospitals must end elective, non-essential procedures.”

Patients who arrive at Shaare Zedek or Assuta will be directed elsewhere.

According to the Health Ministry, in addition to Shaare Zedek and Assuta, the coronavirus wards at a number of major hospitals around the country have topped 100 percent capacity — Jerusalem’s Hadassah Ein Kerem (143%) and Hadassah Mount Scopus (100%), Netanya’s Laniado hospital (111%), Ramat Gan’s Sheba Medical Center (119%), and Rehovot’s Kaplan Medical Center (121%).

With hospitals overflowing across the country, Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Monday ordered the military to prepare to establish a field hospital for coronavirus patients.

Magen David Adom workers wearing protective clothing outside the coronavirus unit at Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem on September 10, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Jerusalem, Israel’s largest city, has the most active coronavirus cases — 5,645 — with over 3,000 diagnosed in the past week, while Ashdod places third nationwide, with 1,902. The ministry also said Monday night that 4,057 medical staff are currently in quarantine nationwide, including 1,068 doctors and 494 nurses.

Despite initial success in tackling the pandemic, Israel has in recent weeks become one of the countries with the highest number of daily cases per capita, and that is now starting to show in total numbers as well.

As medical centers across the country were ordered to gird for several hundred additional serious COVID-19 cases by the end of the month, Israel’s total case count per capita overtook that of the United States on Monday, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University, which tracks worldwide coronavirus numbers.

As of September 21, Israel has 2,115.1 cases per 100,000 people, while America has 2,079.9, the latest data showed. It remains behind such countries as Brazil and Peru in its case count per capita.

At the same time, Israel’s death rate per million inhabitants stands at 133, compared to the world average of 123.3, the data showed.

Israel’s coronavirus czar warned Sunday that virus numbers were reaching “emergency” levels, and ordered hospitals to add new virus wards.

Ronni Gamzu said in an interview with Channel 12 news that he fears the number of COVID-19 patients in serious condition could reach 800 by the end of the week, a number that has been frequently cited as the maximum Israeli hospitals can cope with.

Israel is currently under lockdown for at least three weeks.

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