The number of people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 surpassed 60,000 on Tuesday, breaking all previous records as coronavirus outbreaks surge nationwide. The increase in severely ill COVID-19 patients comes as health officials across the country say hospitals are running out of intensive care unit beds.
Total coronavirus case numbers for the US have exceeded 10 million in a third wave of the country’s pandemic that first accelerated in September.
Experts such as Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, are warning that a “hard winter” is ahead for the US; scientists are concerned about overloaded hospitals and increasing infections unless the surge is blunted.
“We have just seen everywhere that when cases overwhelm public health systems, overwhelm hospitals, that deaths are going to rise,” global health lawyer Alexandra Phelan of the Center for Global Health Science and Security at Georgetown University told BuzzFeed News on Monday.
In North Dakota, hospitals have reached their patient limit. On Monday, Gov. Doug Burgum announced that state health officials amended a rule allowing infected healthcare workers who don’t have symptoms to continue working to help handle the caseload overwhelming hospitals’ COVID-19 units.
In Des Moines, hospitals “are nearly full, as we’re caring for the most inpatient COVID-19 patients since the start of the pandemic,” warned the UnityPoint Health – Des Moines medical system. Decatur County Hospital has barred visitors, except to accompany minors or fill out paperwork, citing the outbreak there. “We must stop the spread of this new and dangerous virus,” the hospital warned in its announcement.
According to Iowa’s COVID-19 tracker, there are a record 1,135 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state, a record 196 of them are in ICU beds, and a record 166 people were admitted in the past 24 hours.
In Tulsa, Oklahoma, where health officials warned that there were no more ICU beds available in the city on Monday, the mayor pleaded with residents to comply with efforts to slow the spread of the virus.
“Tulsans can not fight this on our own,” Mayor G.T. Bynum wrote on Facebook. “I again implore the state and our neighboring communities to listen to those medical professionals asking for steps to be taken that will slow the spread of this virus. Politically convenient speeches about freedom and personal responsibility are not preventing our ICUs from being maxed out.”
Compared to patients hospitalized with the flu, COVID-19 patients are five times more likely to die in the hospital, according to the CDC.
Peter Aldhous contributed reporting for this story.