US COVID hospitalizations have passed 100,000 a day again as the Indian ‘Delta’ variant surges – but cases are dropping, sparking hopes the latest surge of the outbreak may finally be past its peak.
The number of Americans admitted to hospital suffering from the virus each day is now at its highest since the records surge of winter 2020- when the U.S. suffered its largest surge of the virus to date, and before the vaccine was widely available.
Deaths are on the rise as well, with some states setting new records last week.
An influx of hospitalized COVID-19 patients has put many hospitals and health care workers into desperate situations.
Hospital beds are becoming scarce in some areas, particularly the U.S. south where some states have less than 10 percent of their total capacity available.
Hospitals across the US south are at near capacity due to a Delta-variant fueled surge, and deaths are rising as well. Pictured: A doctor in Jonesboro, Arkansas, suits up to enter a Covid ward
In Alabama, 103 percent of hospital capacity is currently in use, as even some overflow centers the state has set up to deal with surges are beginning to fill.
Five other states are also at over 90 percent of hospital capacity filled – Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and Texas.
Missouri – which was among the first states to feel the effects of the Delta variant at the end of June – and Louisiana are on the cusp of the 90 percent mark as well, at 89 percent each.
Many southern hospitals are reporting that they are low on oxygen as the amount of patients needing to be put on a ventilator increases as well.
Louisiana is currently being sandwiched by two separate crises.
The COVID-19 situation in the state has grown worse than ever, with a record number of deaths being recorded last week, with 139 on Tuesday.
Meanwhile on the state’s southern coast, Hurricane Ida made landfall over the weekend, causing power outages, flooding and destruction of property across the state.
In New Orleans, that largest city in the state, the entire power grid went down late Sunday night, leaving hospital staff scrambling.
Officials at Ochsner Health, which runs the largest hospital network in Louisiana, said roughly 15 of the network’s hospitals are in areas potentially affected by Ida.
The network evacuated some patients with particular medical needs from small, rural hospitals to larger facilities.
Warner Thomas, president and CEO of Ochsner Health, said Sunday that the system decided preemptively to evacuate a smaller hospital in St Charles Parish when the storm’s track shifted a bit east.
He said 35 patients were moved to other hospitals in the region over a little less than three hours.
When it comes to power at their facilities, Mike Hulefeld said, they are in pretty good shape.
Three of their facilities in areas affected by Ida were moved to generator power in anticipation of losing city power.
Later Sunday the hospital system said they planned to evacuate all patients at two other hospitals in the system on Monday as soon as conditions allowed.
One hospital, with 21 patients in Raceland, suffered roof damage while the other facility with 45 patients in Houma had roof damage and power issues.
Other facilities have suffered roof damage, water leaks and some damage to windows that required moving patients.
At the hospital’s main campus just outside of New Orleans, Thomas said they’d had problems with water leaks but no structural issues and had performed some surgeries Sunday.
They’ve had no injuries reported.
Deaths are also rising nearly everywhere in the United States.
Average daily deaths in the country eclipsed 1,000 in late August, a mark not previously reached since March.
Nationwide, deaths have grown by 266 percent over the past month, from 354 a day on July 30 to 1,296 on on August 29.
Things may begin to improve for Americans in the near future, though.
Many states including Louisiana, that suffered surges from the Delta variant are now seeing new cases fall, even as hospitalizations and deaths remain high.
New daily cases peaked in Louisiana in mid-August, at over 5,600 a day.
The state is currently only averaging 2,100 new cases a day with the figure rapidly dropping.
Cases in Mississippi, which reached a record of over 3,500 a day earlier this month, have nearly been slashed in half to only 1,800 per day to end the month.
Georgia and Texas, other sites of outbreaks midway through the month, have also seen daily cases drop by the thousands over the past two weeks.
Hospitalizations and deaths usually lag behind new cases, so those figures may decrease as well as it appears the peak of the Delta variant in many southern states has past.
Health officials are still pushing for more Americans to get vaccinated to avoid the surge continuing, though
Almost all of new hospitalizations and deaths in the United States are among unvaccinated people.
The states in the south with the most filled ICUs are also among those with the lowest vaccination rate.
A simulation by the University of Washington predicts that up to 100,000 Americans could die from the virus between now and December if the current situation holds.
Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, told CNN he believes the pandemic could be quelled if more of the 80 million eligible, unvaccinated, Americans got their shots.
‘We could do it efficiently and quickly if we just get those people vaccinated,’ he said.
‘That’s why it’s so important now, in this crisis that we’re in that people put aside any ideologic, political or other differences, and just get vaccinated.’