(Trends Wide) — With the most contagious variant of COVID-19 sweeping across the United States this summer, health workers and officials are encountering a crisis that was experienced last year, when hospitals struggled to handle the influx of patients.
In the southeast, Georgia is seeing the highest number of hospitalizations since the onset of the pandemic, matching the highs recorded in January, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). in English).
Dr. James Black, director of emergency services at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Albany, Georgia, told Trends Wide’s Amara Walker on Saturday that his hospital has nearly doubled its intensive care unit (ICU) capacity. , but still facing a glut of patients.
“The emergency department is full and the hospital is full,” Black said. “Every time a patient is discharged, we have patients waiting in those beds.”
“Surprised and disappointed” by the current situation of covid-19
The city of Albany, located in southwestern Georgia, had one of the worst covid-19 outbreaks in the country at the start of the pandemic. Now hospitalizations are eclipsing those previous figures, Black said, calling the fact of having to deal with this new outbreak “bleak”, as health personnel are once again on the front line of the daily risk of infection.
“We feel frustrated, a little puzzled, especially considering what we went through at the beginning of the pandemic,” said Black, who also noted that Georgia is below the national average in vaccination rates.
Georgia has fully vaccinated 42.1% of its population against COVID-19, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, for its acronym in English), while at the level 53% of the national population is fully vaccinated.
“We are a bit surprised and disappointed at the lack of participation. So we had to redouble our efforts and lift each other up and we certainly hoped we weren’t having the same discussion at 18 months. But here we are, seemingly worse. way than at the beginning “.
The US Hospitalization Landscape
Total US hospitalizations nearly tripled in July and doubled again in August, according to HHS data, but national weekly figures were only up 2% on Thursday, a possible sign of improvement going forward. However, this is not much of a relief to hospitals that see ICU beds fill up.
“We are dangerously close … to having, in certain areas of the country, full occupation, that you are going to be in a situation where you are going to have to make some very difficult decisions,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told Jim Acosta from Trends Wide on Sunday.
More than 102,000 people across the country are hospitalized with COVID-19, according to HHS data on Saturday, with more than 25,000 in ICUs.
“What we really should be doing, and I hope we are doing, is doing everything we can to mitigate the number of people who are getting infected and who require hospitalization and beds in the ICU,” said Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases.
Some places, in a state of emergency
In Hawaii, the state health department reported 13 new COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday, its highest single-day death toll in the entire pandemic. In August, a series of restrictions on public business were reinstated, and Governor David Ige urged out-of-state visitors not to travel to the islands unless they have urgent business.
Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear has called a special session of the state general assembly to meet this Tuesday in relation to covid-19, with the aim of expanding the state of emergency that the state declared until January 15 and review executive, agency and cabinet orders.
“The Commonwealth is in a state of emergency. The delta variant is spreading at a rate never seen before, affecting businesses, closing schools and worse, causing serious illness and death,” Beshear said Saturday.
Areas with less vaccination in California face capacity problems in ICUs due to covid-19
California’s San Joaquin Valley region reached the threshold for entering “overload protocols,” with fewer than 10% of ICU beds staffed for three consecutive days, the state Department of Public Health announced Friday. (CDPH).
All general acute care hospitals in the San Joaquin Valley region with ICU bed capacity must accept transferred patients when “clinically appropriate” and directed by state health officials or the Medical Services Authority. Emergency Department of California, in an effort to find open beds for patients in the area when they become available.
It is the first region in the state to activate the public health order, according to the CDPH. The region, which includes 12 counties in the central part of the state, only had 9.4% of available adult ICU beds on Saturday, far less than the 20% availability in Southern California and the Bay Area. from San Francisco.
The protocol will be reevaluated Thursday, according to the department.
Less vaccination than in urban areas
The increase in hospitalized patients with COVID-19 in the region comes as the vaccination rate in the area lags behind the more urban coastal regions of the state.
CDC data indicates that less than 50% of eligible residents have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in much of the agriculture-rich San Joaquin Valley, and less than a third of all residents are have been fully vaccinated in Kings County.
“As the state works to further increase the number of eligible Californians vaccinated, we must take steps to protect the unvaccinated who are at increased risk of serious illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19,” CDPH said in a statement. “This action will ensure that the state’s health care system is prepared and can respond appropriately.”
Vaccination for those who go to schools is essential, some states say
According to a recent CDC study, children have needed more ER visits and hospitalizations in states with lower vaccination rates. And some states are working to get ahead of the latest wave by getting as many eligible people vaccinated as possible.
Washington state, which has a vaccination mandate for faculty and staff that takes effect in October, is seeing “big news” regarding youth vaccination efforts, state health secretary Umair said Thursday. Shah. At least 41% of 12-15 year olds are vaccinated and just under half of the state’s 16-17 year olds are also fully vaccinated.
“Washington schools have the structure, protocol, and people to have a successful classroom education,” Shah said.
Extension in Illinois
In Illinois, Governor JB Pritzker is extending the deadline for teachers, college students, and healthcare workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
The state mandate for these people to receive at least one dose of the vaccine, which was originally to go into effect on Sunday, was postponed until September 19 at the request of representatives of the health sector and educational organizations.
“As hospitals and schools move forward in good faith, this extension ensures that they are prepared to meet this requirement to better protect our most vulnerable residents and children who are not yet eligible for vaccination,” Pritzker said in a written statement Friday. .
Employees will only need to be vaccinated once before September 19 (with a second vaccination within 30 days, if necessary), but those who are not fully vaccinated will need to undergo a COVID-19 test at least once a week. Workers must present proof of vaccination to their employers.
Exemptions are allowed for people with a medical or religious objection to the vaccine, but those employees must also get a weekly COVID-19 test.
Trends Wide’s Sarah Moon, Andy Rose, Hannah Sarisohn, Elizabeth Joseph and Jen Christensen contributed to this report.