‘The situation in the hospitals is grim’: States face brutal virus fallout

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Currently nearly 30,000 people in the hospital have tested positive for Covid-19, according to the CDC, a 30 percent increase since Thanksgiving — with New York, Arizona and New Mexico among the hardest hit.

“The situation in the hospitals is grim,” said David Scrase, secretary of the New Mexico Health and Human Services Department. “The death toll from this very serious virus continues to rise and will, hopefully, create a sense of urgency in individuals and families to think about accessing vaccines and also treatments, should you test positive for coronavirus.”

Just over 13 percent of Americans over age 5 have received their updated booster vaccine since it was released in September — including about a third of seniors, the group most susceptible to hospitalization, according to the CDC. Cases in nursing homes are also up more than 30 percent since Thanksgiving.

And while the Omicron subvariants currently in circulation are less deadly than previous variants, on average about 426 people die from Covid-19 each day — an increase of nearly 62 percent from last week, according to the CDC.

“Most of the population has – unfortunately – forgotten about Covid-19 and moved on. As a result, we are seeing an increase in cases and an increase in hospitalizations, and that worries me,” said Ali Mokdad, a professor of global health at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. “Right now with the rise of flu, RSV and Covid, our healthcare workers are exhausted.”

In Louisiana, state health officials are recommending people get tested before attending holiday gatherings.

In Mississippi, the state is down to 65 ICU beds and is now transferring some patients to other states, though Tennessee and Alabama have stopped taking out-of-state transfers.

In Arizona, hospitals have asked the state for additional resources, such as cribs.

And in Oregon, Governor Kate Brown signed an executive order Wednesday in response to the RSV, flu and Covid-19 outbreaks.

“The situation facing our hospitals is extremely serious,” said Dean Sidelinger, Oregon state health officer and state epidemiologist. “Hospitals are overwhelmed and don’t have enough beds to treat everyone the way they used to.”

Health officials believe RSV may already be at its peak, but flu and covid continue to pose major challenges to the health care system. Flu hit the Southern Hemisphere early, hard and fast this year — a trend some experts say is likely to follow in the Northern Hemisphere — but how hard Covid will hit this year remains uncertain.

“These curves are getting steeper every week around flu, Covid-19 and other respiratory viruses,” said Mark Ghaly, secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency. “Taken individually, these infections are manageable, but when they all come together, the difficulty for the system is quite extreme — and we’re seeing that now.”

Ghaly said the total number of hospitalizations for Covid-19 and flu in California is likely to rise from 6,100 this week to 10,000 by the end of the year or early January.

While health officials hope the population’s level of immunity to infections and vaccines means this winter’s surge won’t be as severe, they remain concerned about the impact of the virus on the elderly and the immunocompromised – especially given the poor absorption of the virus. bivalent virus. booster shot this fall.

“If we break it down in terms of age groups, it’s the older adults who have the highest number of cases and we’re seeing an upward trend in hospitalizations,” said Jennifer Dillaha, director of the Arkansas Department of Health. “That’s worrying because if hospitalizations rise, reported deaths will also increase later on.”

The Biden administration recently announced a six-week campaign to increase Covid-19 vaccination rates before the end of the year, and CDC Director Rochelle Walensky warned Monday that rising The number of cases and hospitalizations is “worrying” as people prepare for several generations to come together for the holiday season.

“If you are older than 65 or 70 and have underlying health conditions that increase your risk and you have not been vaccinated, you are at high risk and should take every possible precaution,” said Eric Toner, senior associate at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. .

But the problem is bigger than just Covid. By the end of October, only about 26 percent of adults had been vaccinated against the flu, according to CDC data.

Rachel Herlihy, Colorado’s state epidemiologist, said hospitalization rates for the flu “are quite unique, severe and early for us compared to other flu seasons.”

“It’s not just the challenge of Covid-19, it’s flu and RSV on top of Covid that are challenging our healthcare system,” she said.

Public health experts say that while the flu poses the greatest risk to urgent care facilities and hospital emergency departments, Covid still poses a greater threat to ICUs than the flu. With the health care workforce thinning over the past two years, they said hospitals would not have the resources to deal with another severe, Delta-like variant causing more severe disease.

“The triad of disease is terrible right now — but it’s a better situation compared to Covid’s peak spikes,” said Irwin Redlener, director of the Pandemic Resource and Response Initiative at Columbia University. “If we hadn’t had Covid sooner this would be a very overwhelming winter for doctors, nurses and parents. We’re talking about a very serious increase in respiratory disease in general. Compared to the worst times with Covid, this is probably better. Compared to a typical winter season, this is significantly worse.”

Even with the wave coming, public health officials say their message hasn’t changed: They advise people to wash their hands, get vaccinated, stay home if sick, and take extra precautions such as testing for Covid or masking around vulnerable family members.

“This is another year when we should be celebrating Zoom birthdays and Christmas,” said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. “If you don’t, get fully vaccinated, and I think you’ll be fine. There is a risk, but I think it’s a reasonable risk and a rational risk. But be careful if you have vulnerable family members.”

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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