Covid crisis threatens holiday season as US hospitals overflow


Just over 60% of the US population is considered fully vaccinated, which generally means two vaccinations, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That still leaves a large pool of highly vulnerable individuals capable of pressuring hospitals.

In the latest CDC data released in September, unvaccinated people had about 14 times the risk of dying from Covid-19 after adjusting for age – a major factor in Covid outcomes.

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A health care worker assists residents of a Covid-19 vaccination center in the Chinatown neighborhood of New York, United States, on Sunday, December 5, 2021. Five months after President Joe Biden declared that the US was on the verge of defeating Covid-19, the virus threatens a winter resurgence across the country, with the Omicron variant threatening to fuel an already high number of cases.

In some states in the Midwest and Northeast, Covid hospital admissions are mirroring the seasonal pattern of the past year, said Pinar Karaca-Mandic, a director of the Covid-19 hospitalization tracking project at the University of Minnesota.

“Winter is coming, people are more inside,” she said. During the surge last year, “everyone was unvaccinated,” said Karaca-Mandic. While most Americans are vaccinated now, they are also isolating less than last year.

Officials continue to press shots. In Boston, Mayor Michelle Wu sent a message to City Hall on Thursday that she was getting her own booster. The city is adding vaccination clinics, including at schools, and colleges across the area have started informing students that booster vaccinations are needed. New Hampshire will hold a Booster Blitz in locations across the state on Friday.

But Karaca-Mandic said the wildcard was the new variant: “We just don’t know what’s going to happen to omicron.”

As the world has focused on the stress that is spreading rapidly but may no longer be fatal, cases caused by the Delta variant have continued to increase in the US as Montana and Colorado are now seeing improvements.

Still, only 518 acute beds were available in Colorado as of Thursday, said Scott Bookman, the commander of the state’s Covid incident. “We still have a long way to go before our hospitals empty,” he said at a press conference.

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Even in places that get along well, there is a sense of premonition. California has seen relatively steady rates of infection over the past few weeks, with hospital admissions roughly on par with July before Delta moved in. But the most populous state had 11 confirmed Omicron cases on Wednesday, “assuming we’ll see dozens more in the next few days, hundreds in the next few weeks, thousands more,” Governor Gavin Newsom told ABC television.

In Amarillo, elective surgeries have been canceled and emergency rooms overflowing with virus patients who have to wait up to five days for a hospital bed, Weis said in a telephone interview. Regional hospital officials have asked the state for additional staff, “but there is little hope that they will get through,” he said.

“The overwhelming majority of our new cases, new hospital admissions, and new deaths are unfortunately unvaccinated,” said Governor Phil Murphy during a December 8 briefing. In New Jersey, the mean daily hospital admissions averaged seven days 206, 78% more than two weeks earlier. Even so, the recording speed at that time was far more than twice as fast a year ago.

The Geisinger Health System, which has nine hospitals in northeast and central Pennsylvania, is overworked and rejecting patients, said Gerald Maloney, chief medical officer for hospital services.

“People are tired,” Maloney said in an interview. “It’s worse than a year ago and it could get worse.”

In New York, Governor Kathy Hochul ordered more than 30 hospitals that were filling with patients to shut down some procedures. Mayor Bill de Blasio said it was a dire harbinger for New York City.

“The largest city in America, densely populated, we cannot allow that here,” he said.

In Michigan, hospitals are reaching a critical point. The state’s 22,883 inpatient beds are more than 85% occupied, said John Karasinski, spokesman for the Michigan Health and Hospital Association.

“The situation is dire and is exacerbated by several factors,” Karasinski said in a telephone interview. “The rise in Covid-19 is putting a strain on hospitals, their employees and their capacities. There is a persistent staff shortage. It existed before the pandemic and got worse during the pandemic. “

The Department of Defense dispatched three teams of 22 medical professionals, each in a different part of the state. Illinois had 3,178 Covid hospital admissions on Wednesday, the highest since January, according to the state health department. Six of the state’s eleven regions had 20 or fewer ICU beds available.

Thanksgiving weekend is a likely driver of the recovery, said Arien Herrmann, director of the hospital coordination center for the state’s southernmost counties.

“People who travel, visit friends and family, have meetings, have created an opportunity to spread the community,” Herrmann said in a telephone interview. “It will be the same at Christmas and then New Year’s Eve. That keeps me up at night. “

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