1 in 4 ICUs near capacity, up from 1 in 10 in June

Hospitals across the U.S., particularly in the South, are running low on intensive care unit beds as the delta variant drives COVID-19 surges, The New York Times reported.

One in four U.S. hospitals are currently reporting more than 95 percent ICU bed capacity, according to a Times analysis of HHS data. The data encompasses seven-day average patient count by hospital referral region ending Sept. 9. The data shows an uptick from last month when one in five hospitals was at 95 percent ICU capacity, and a steep rise compared to June rates, when fewer than one in 10 hospitals had that high of rates.

In recent days, dozens of patients in Alabama have needed beds that weren't available, according to HHS data.

"It means they're in the waiting room, some are in the back of ambulances, things of that nature," Jeannie Gaines, communication director for the Alabama Hospital Association, told the Times.

In Texas, 169 hospital ICUs are more than 95 percent full, up from 69 in June. Statewide, there are only about 700 ICU beds remaining. Hospitals in Texas, along with other parts of the country, have established overflow tents to combat the influx of patients. 

Last week, 24 hospitals in Florida had more ICU patients than available beds.

Several states with high ICU occupancy rates also are reporting lower vaccination rates. Some hospitals in Washington are experiencing an influx of COVID-19 patients from neighboring Idaho, where only 40 percent of residents are fully vaccinated, compared to 61 percent of residents in Washington. Crisis standards of care for Idaho hospitals are currently activated for the state's northern region. 

Relative to vaccinated people, unvaccinated individuals infected with COVID-19 face a 10 times higher risk of hospitalization and are 11 times more likely to die from the disease, the CDC found. The risk of hospitalization for unvaccinated children also is nearly 10 times higher.  

"Our biggest concerns are our low vaccination rates," said Scott Harris, MD, Alabama's state health officer. "That's the reason we're in the situation that we're in. Virtually all of our deaths are people who are unvaccinated."


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