American Hospitals Buckle Under Delta, With I.C.U.s Filling Up
The summer surge in coronavirus cases in the United States, led by the domination of the more contagious Delta variant, is well into its second month, and the number of those hospitalized with Covid-19 has reached heights last seen during the overwhelming winter wave.
The number of those patients who are critically ill, requiring treatment in an intensive care unit, has risen, too. Data from the Department of Health and Human Services shows that the number of hospitals with very full I.C.U.s doubled in recent weeks. Now, one in five I.C.U.s have reached or exceeded 95 percent of beds occupied, a level experts say makes it difficult or impossible for health professionals to maintain standards of care for the very sick.
In many states, hospital workers are seeing admission numbers that resemble what they saw at the height of the pandemic over the winter. Some are struggling to find enough beds, while others have employees working overtime and are relying on contract nurses and emergency medical technicians. Outside some hospitals, officials are erecting large tents to house everyone.
Dr. David De La Zerda, who has spent more than a year treating patients in the I.C.U. at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, thought early this summer that a drop in cases meant the crisis phase of the pandemic was near its end. That feeling lasted just four weeks. According to federal data, there were over 300 patients hospitalized with Covid in the Jackson Memorial Hospital system in the week ending August 12, up from around 70 at the beginning of July.