May 20, 2022

Hits ‘keep coming’: Hospitals struggle as COVID beds fill

Ohio became the latest state to summon the National Guard to help overwhelmed medical facilities. Experts in Nebraska warned that its hospitals soon may need to ration care. Medical officials in Kansas and Missouri are delaying surgeries, turning away transfers and desperately trying to hire traveling nurses, as cases double and triple in an eerie reminder of last year’s holiday season.

There is no medical school class that can prepare you for this level of death, said Dr. Jacqueline Pflaum-Carlson, an emergency medicine specialist at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit. The hits just keep coming.

The national seven-day average of COVID-19 hospital admissions was 60,000 by Wednesday, far off last winter’s peak but 50% higher than in early November, the government reported. The situation is more acute in cold-weather regions, where people are increasingly gathering inside and new infections are piling up.

New York state reported Friday that slightly more than 21,000 people had tested positive for COVID-19, a new high since tests became widely available. The consequences were swift in New York City: The Rockettes Christmas show was scratched for the season, and some Broadway shows canceled performances because of outbreaks among cast members.

At AdventHealth Shawnee Mission, a hospital near Kansas City, Missouri, chief medical officer Dr. Lisa Hays said the emergency department is experiencing backups sometimes lasting for days.

Experts attribute most of the rise in cases and hospitalizations to infections among people who have not been inoculated against the coronavirus. The government says 61% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated.

There’s no place to go. Our staff are tired. We’re going to run out of travelers, Stites said, referring to visiting health care workers, and omicron is at our doorstep. This is a tornado warning to our community.

Ohio’s National Guard deployment is one of the largest seen during the pandemic, with more than 1,000 members sent to beleaguered hospitals especially in the Akron, Canton and Cleveland areas.

Nebraska officials said hospitals might have to put some care on hold to make room for COVID-19 patients. While case numbers are down from the state’s pandemic peak, they could rebound rapidly, and bed availability remains tight because of patients with non-virus ailments.

At Los Angeles’ Providence Holy Cross Medical Center, just 17 coronavirus patients were being treated there Friday, a small fraction of the hospital’s worst stretch. Nurse manager Edgar Ramirez said his co-workers are weary but better prepared if a wave hits.