The current surge of COVID-19 cases, driven by the hypertransmissible delta variant, is causing strain to hospitals across the US, especially in the South. Twenty-five percent of hospital intensive care units nationwide are now above 95 percent full. This percentage is up from 20 percent in July and just 10 percent in June, according to data tracking by The New York Times.
The spike in critical care is followed by cases and hospitalizations. Average new daily cases in the country rose from about 12,000 per day at the end of June to 150,000 or more in mid-September. Hospitalizations have also risen, rising from an average of about 17,000 daily in early July to nearly 100,000 now. Although cases and hospitalizations are starting to drop or decrease slightly, they are still very high. Meanwhile, the deaths are on the rise. In the past two weeks, deaths have risen 40 per cent to the current average of around 1,900 per day.
Most cases and almost all hospitalizations and deaths occur in illiterate people. Nearly 60,000 people in the US have died of COVID-19 since early July. With highly effective vaccines freely available, almost all deaths currently occurring are preventable.
Now, with the surge, public health experts fear that the pressure on health care systems will cause additional suffering and death in non-COVID patients. Hospitals in many states have been forced to implement ration treatment and crisis-care standards.
ICU bed capacity in Alabama hospitals has exceeded 100 percent. NS Alabama Hospital Association Told on Tuesday that there were 1,592 ICU patients in the state and only 1,549 staff ICU beds, 43 more than patients. Yellowhammer has a seven-day average of positive tests for the state 19 percent, suggesting that transmission is still very high. Alabama is one of the least vaccinated states in the country, with only 40 percent of the population fully vaccinated.
Generally, hospitals and ICUs are most burdened in the south, where vaccination rates are relatively low and delta transmission has increased. In Texas, 169 of the 506 reporting hospitals have more than 95 percent ICUs, up from just 69 in June, the Times notes. In Florida, 24 hospitals have reported having more ICU patients than beds in the past week. In Mississippi, 94 percent of the state’s ICU beds are full.
But the South is not the only place where hospitals are overflowing. Last week, Idaho’s Department of Health activated its crisis standards of care at 10 northern hospitals. Similarly, Alaska’s largest hospital—Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage—imposed crisis standards over the weekend. Hospital announces decision two page letter Sent Tuesday.
“The acuity and number of patients now exceed our resources and our capacity to staff beds with skilled caregivers such as nurses and respiratory therapists,” according to the letter signed by Providence Chief of Staff Dr Kristen Solana Walkinshaw. [W]E should prioritize scarce resources and treatments for those patients with the greatest benefit potential. We need to develop and enact policies and procedures to ration medical care and treatment, including dialysis and specialized ventilatory support… Because of this shortage, we are unable to provide life-saving care to everyone.
The letter also mentioned that, with the crush of COVID-19 patients, some people seeking emergency care had been sitting outside the hospital for hours in their cars, waiting to be seen by a doctor.
In Illinois, the state Department of Public Health reported for the first time that a Health areas run out of ICU beds. The Southern Region (Region 5), which includes 19 hospitals, serves approximately 400,000 people, according to Chicago Tribune.
Illinois Medical Professional Action Support Team issued a statement Tuesday said: “This is not a ‘non-vaccination epidemic’, but a pandemic that affects everyone as emergency and routine healthcare for one region collapses.”