Today’s USA is seeing peaks in Coronavirus-related hospitalizations; signifying that there are more Americans sick with COVID-19 now, than at any previous point since the pandemic’s start. This grim reality debunks any claim that, somehow, COVID’s effect is slowing down in the United States. Unlike a number of countries in Europe and Asia (Germany, South Korea, etc.) currently returning to semblances of societal normalcy, many American communities and cities are having to scale back reopening measures.
The previous record for daily hospitalizations was 59,539 (April 15th), back when New York City was the global epicenter for the COVID-19. In the three months between the two record highs, much changed as far as the distribution and severity of the pandemic in different regions of the country. In the spring, hospitalizations were heavily concentrated in the northeast; demonstrated by the fact that the states hardest hit were New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, amongst others. Now, in the heat of the summer, over half (35,624 as of July 22nd) of daily hospitalizations are located in the South. The West has also seen its number of daily hospitalizations double, while the Northeast, on average, accounts for around 5,000 of 60,000 daily hospitalization in the US.
The overall growth of daily hospitalizations has been driven by a sharp increase in the number of cases in Florida, Texas, and Arizona. For the sake of perspective, on April 15th, when New York City was at almost full ICU capacity, the state of Texas had a grand total of 1,500 cases. Yesterday, as the tables have since turned, more than 10,000 Texans were hospitalized with COVID. Other counties, like Miami-Dade in Florida, are nearing maximum capacity for ICU beds, and are scrambling to make up for lack of resources. More than 50 hospitals in the state across the state have indicated they are entirely out of ICUs. Texas Medical Center, on the other hand, has already filled up its non-pandemic ICU unit. Earlier in the month of July, 10 out of 12 hospitals in the Rio Grande Valley region in southern Texas were announced to be at full capacity. In turn, local officials began calling for the transfer of patients to hospitals elsewhere in the state.
Unfortunately, most of the states could have avoided the backend of the virus’ original effect on this country. Almost all areas currently experiencing an increase in daily cases began relaxing restrictions prior to complying with government guidelines and meeting safety standards. These include, but are not limited to, sufficiently reducing the spread of COVID and adequately improving testing and tracing capabilities.
All this is to say that this great country’s war with the Coronavirus is far from over. To this day, more than four million Americans have been confirmed with cases of COVID-19; over 143,000 of them have died. More than 90% of those who would be considered most vulnerable have still yet to be infected. Social distancing and the mandated/encouraged wearing of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) have been largely successful at keeping vulnerable Americans safe as they have returned to work. That said, the lack of infection in this category of folks indicates that there is still a lot of potential damage to be done if all people aren’t careful.
It is imperative that hospitals and other medical institutions continue to boost their supply of PPE, especially in the regions where case numbers are rapidly on the rise. While most of such places have greater access to supplies now than in the past several months, present circumstances mean that this could change on a week-by-week basis. Roberta Schwartz, executive vice president of Houston Methodist Hospital, says her institution has had trouble getting gowns and disinfectant wipes.
While it might be hard to believe that a hospital is running short on conventional items like wipes or patient gowns, this is an overbearing reality for many in COVID hotspots. These articles are necessary for healthcare workers to get through their days in a manner that minimizes their risk and exposure to the virus. Healthcare executives have to make essential decisions, the downsides of which often come at the expense of their employees’ health. For that reason, it is imperative that hospitals around the country remain stocked up with MORE supplies than they might need in any given moment.
Despite claims by some commentators and anti-lockdown figures, the fatality rate in states struggling the most with COVID-19 has also been rising in recent weeks. Florida and Texas both reached their single-day death toll records in the last week. The hope now is that the relationship between hospitalizations and deaths is not as close as it was in the prior month of March and April. As it is important to remain optimistic during these troubled times, it is all the more critical that community leaders and healthcare professionals properly equip themselves and those around them.