Health care capacity in the United States is starting to be pushed to its limit, as some communities have run out of space to treat patients needing intensive care with major cities such as St. Louis, Los Angeles and San Francisco now warning that the healthcare crisis could reach a breaking point if the record rise in coronavirus hospitalizations does not stop.
Hospital Covid health care workers during an intubation procedure to a Covid patient.
Dr. Grant Colfax, the director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health, warned that the current record Covid-19 surge has “the potential to overwhelm our health care system.”
Los Angeles County’s health services director warned this week that hospital capacity there could be overwhelmed unless the rate of Covid-19 spread slows significantly.
In Pittsburgh, some independent modeling reportedly shows ICU space running out as early as Thanksgiving, but officials there are hopeful that will not end up happening.
Dr. Alex Garza, the head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, said Friday that Covid “continues to spread like wildfire” and that if trends continue for just a couple of more weeks and more patients show up at hospitals “it’ll be difficult to find room for them.”
Hospitals in St. Louis have already been overwhelmed to the point that they’ve had to turn away patients being transferred from rural hospitals, many of which do not have adequate treatment facilities compared to large cities.
Some smaller communities, like Tulsa and Jackson, Mississippi, have already run out of ICU beds, as many rural hospitals around the U.S. have already been pushed beyond their limits.
What To Watch For
Idaho’s largest health care system is preparing for situations where it has to decide who receives care and who doesn’t, an extreme and grim step that some hospitals in Italy put in place when the health care system was overwhelmed there in the spring. Rural hospitals have started taking exceptional measures as Covid has continued to spread rapidly in small communities. North Dakota is allowing Covid-positive nurses to continue working in coronavirus units at hospitals and in nursing homes.
“We would be in the unimaginably bad situation of needing to make decisions about who gets (care) and who doesn’t,” Dr. Jim Souza of St. Luke’s Health System told CBS This Morning. “Our modeling is suggesting we may be facing that scenario in December.”
There has been a new record for coronavirus hospitalizations for 11 straight days now, according to The COVID Tracking Project, which reported 82,178 hospitalizations in the U.S. on Friday. And signs only point to hospitalizations increasing, since new cases, which precede hospitalizations, are continuing to spike to new records. The U.S. set another case record by adding almost 200,000 cases on Friday. Deaths, which lag behind increases in both cases and hospitalizations, have now spiked to their highest levels since the spring. More than 1,800 Covid deaths have been reported in the U.S. each of the past three days.
San Francisco expected to move to purple tier, fall under state curfew next week (San Francisco Chronicle)
Allegheny County’s ICU capacity dwindles as Covid-19 hospitalizations increase (Pittsburgh Business Times)