Hundreds of Hospitals at or Near Full Capacity

Carolyn Crist

December 14, 2020

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

More than 200 hospitals across the county were at full capacity last week, according to new data from the Department of Health and Human Services.

In addition, one-third of hospitals had reached 90% ICU capacity. COVID-19 patients took up 46% of the ICU beds, which increased from 37% at the beginning of November.

Public health officials and doctors say they're concerned about what this means as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continue to climb. The surge from Thanksgiving travel and indoor gatherings could combine with virus transmission during the upcoming holidays to create a devastating situation.

"Things are really bad," Ashish Jha, MD, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, told CNN.

"What we have seen over the last few weeks is a sharp rise in infections," he said. "And what we know — from the beginning of this pandemic — is infections are followed by hospitalizations, which are then followed by death."

Hospitalizations have broken records every day this week. On Thursday, more than 107,000 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, according to The COVID Tracking Project. The U.S. also reported 215,000 new cases and 3,100 new deaths on Thursday.

As hospitals fill up, they're running out of ICU beds and health care workers to take care of patients. In some areas, doctors have to send patients out of state for treatment, CNN reported.

"The impact is not just on people with COVID. It's an impact on anybody who needs hospital care," Jha said. "The hospitals are running out of beds for everybody. So it's a much broader public health problem than just a COVID problem."

Earlier this week, San Jose Regional Medical Center reached full capacity for the first time during the pandemic, according to ABC7 Bay Area. Across the 15 hospitals in Santa Clara County, 31 ICU beds were open.

"We are talking about putting up tents and transferring patients out," Sarah Sherwood, a spokesperson at the hospital, told the news outlet.

In Idaho, the morgues are full in several counties, and officials are beginning to ask for mobile morgues to hold bodies, Gov. Brad Little said during a news briefing on Thursday. COVID-19 was the top cause of death in the state in November.

"The vast majority of Idaho's hospitals are being pushed to their limits," he said. "Our individual choices can prevent the need to ration health care in the coming weeks and months. Please make the right choices."

Sources

Department of Health and Human Services, "COVID-19 Reported Patient Impact and Hospital Capacity by Facility."

CNN, "200 hospitals have been at full capacity, and 1/3 of all US hospitals are almost out of ICU space

COVID Tracking Project, "Our Data."

ABC 7 News, "'We don't have any free beds': SJ hospital reaches full capacity as COVID-19 cases surge."

Idaho Statesman, "'Morgues are full': Governor urges Idahoans, 'Please make the right choices' on COVID-19."

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