Hospitals nationwide grapple with fewer beds, more COVID-19 patients

As COVID-19 cases rise in all 50 states, hospitals across the nation are once again dealing with capacity issues in terms of beds and staffing as patients present with COVID-19 and other illnesses.

Below are snapshots from six states where some hospitals are facing or anticipating capacity issues. Among most of the hospitals, nearly all of their COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated, and an increasing number are young.


Projections from the college of public health at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock indicate COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state will triple in the next two weeks, according to a July 19 report from NBC News

Bed capacity is already dwindling. Steppe Mette, MD, senior vice chancellor for UAMS Health and CEO of UAMS Medical Center in Little Rock, told NBC News if the projections are right, "that will surpass what we saw last winter." He added that the hospital is in surge mode and is "putting patients in physical locations where we weren't putting them normally because of that demand."


UF Health Jacksonville broke its record for most hospitalized COVID-19 patients July 19, according to NBC News. At one point on July 19, the hospital reported 126 COVID-19 patients, up 40 percent in one day.

"We're gaining cases at such a rapid rate we don't really know where it's going to stop," Chad Neilsen, UF Health Jacksonville director of infection prevention, told NBC News. "We aren't even thinking a couple of months. We're thinking what's going to immediately happen in the next week."

There is regionality to note. Hospitals in Central Florida are reporting near-capacity in their intensive care units, though hospitals clarified these numbers don't tell the full story. For instance, ICU capacity at Advent Health Orlando was at 93 percent as of July 19. The system told Click Orlando: "It is typical for hospitals to have capacity figures in the 90th percentile even in pre-COVID times, so these numbers do not cause for concern or alarm. While we have seen an increase in hospitalizations in Central Florida over the last few weeks, we still have significantly fewer COVID patients compared to what we saw during the peak."

Orlando Regional Medical Center's ICU was at 97 percent capacity July 19, with the hospital saying it is "seeing an increase in COVID-19 patients reflective of the spread within the community. As a system, we continuously evaluate and adjust our operations to determine the best use of our resources to accommodate the needs of our patients."


For the last several weeks, Blank Children's Hospital in Des Moines has been at or near capacity as more children have required treatment for COVID-19 and other illnesses, hospital officials told KCCI Des Moines 8.

"Our PICU is full. Our general pediatric floor is full. We're like, rooming children in the halls of the ED. And so it really creates a situation that if those numbers continue, and we go back to school with no masks and undervaccinated children, it's going to be very difficult rooming every child who needs a hospital bed," Joel Waddell, DO, a pediatric infectious diseases physician at Blank, told the publication. 

The CDC recently said teachers and students who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 don't need to wear masks at schools. But the American Academy of Pediatrics wants universal masking for everyone older than age 2 this fall.


The University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson tweeted a graph July 19 that depicts how quickly the hospital went from having nine COVID-19 patients on July 6 to 44 on July 19.

"That's it. That's the tweet," the hospital said.

As of July 19, the Mississippi State Department of Health reported 2,326 new cases and 40 ongoing outbreaks at long-term care facilities. Some state hospitals are reporting increasing difficulty with patient transfers.


Steve Edwards, president and CEO of CoxHealth in Springfield, Mo., tweeted that as of July 20 the hospital had 147 COVID-19 patients, "well beyond our capacity three weeks ago." Mr. Edwards said the hospital is aided by 175 traveling providers, with an additional 46 slated to arrive by July 26. 

"Grateful for the help as we look to expand our capacity everyday to care for our community," he added.


Methodist University Hospital in Memphis is expanding its COVID-19 units to address and prepare for an influx of COVID-19 patients.

In a statement to News Channel 3, Methodist said it's seeing "a sharp increase in the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19. Our nimbleness allows us to implement plans to expand our COVID-19 capacity in each facility to best meet the needs of our community."

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