One-third of Hospitals are Almost Out of ICU Space

New information from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services showed that 200 hospitals were full last week. Additionally, one-third of hospitals in the U.S. had 90 percent of the beds in their ICUs filled. And 46 percent of those patients had COVID-19. All of the available information shows that the number of cases is only going to rise as the winter goes on, especially as we see the post-Thanksgiving surge roll into the other holidays.

Hospitals are becoming so full, doctors are reporting sending patients to other states for care. They also share that the problem spills over from COVID-19 patients onto others who need to hospital for different medical concerns.

The impact is not just on people with COVID. It’s an impact on anybody who needs hospital care,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown Univ. School of Public Health. “The hospitals are running out of beds for everybody. So, it’s a much broader public health problem than just a COVID problem.”

It’s not just a problem in urban areas; it’s true across the country. More than a third of Americans live near a hospital that is running out of space. The problem is terrible in the Midwest, South and Southwest. Not only are hospitals running out of beds, but their staffs are stretched thin, caring for so many people at once.

There’s only so much our frontline care can offer, particularly when you get to these really rural counties which are being hit hard by the pandemic right now,” said Beth Blauer, director of the Centers for Civic Impact at Johns Hopkins Univ. “This disease progresses very quickly and can get very ugly very fast. When you don’t have that capacity, that means people will die.”

They expect that they will soon be turning people away. If you feel ill, you should call your doctor as a first step. They can tell you where you should go to be checked out. They might be seeing patients, or they may ask you to go to a specific site. You shouldn’t head to a hospital without calling ahead to see if they have any protocols you need to follow. You can look up how full your county hospitals are here.

Telling you this isn’t meant to scare you so much as underscore the importance of protecting yourself. For older people and people with health concerns, COVID-19 can be especially dangerous. If you or a loved one you’re in contact with is at a higher risk, it’s essential to be careful. But it’s also important to avoid becoming ill to help the hospitals in your area. Simple actions like wearing a mask, washing your hands and avoiding contact with others can protect you from getting COVID-19 or unknowingly passing the virus to people around you. This holiday season, the greatest gift you can give both yourself and others is health!

Banner image: Adhy Savala via Unsplash
December 11, 2020
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