US hospitals in scramble to make room amid rising COVID-19 case count, dwindling bed capacity

As U.S hospitals deal with fewer beds and more COVID-19 patients, some are taking steps such as rescheduling surgeries and turning down transfers to address dwindling capacity. 

Here are snapshots from four states where some facilities are facing capacity strains.


UF Health Jacksonville surpassed a record it set for most COVID-19 patients at its two campuses, Chad Neilsen, the hospital's director of infection prevention, told ABC News. That record, set in January, was 125.

As of July 21, there were 136 COVID-19 patients at the hospital's two campuses, including 41 in the intensive care unit and 15 on a ventilator, reporters were told at a media briefing.

"We knew it was most likely due to the delta variant taking a bigger footprint here in the Northeast Florida region because it was so rapid of an increase," Mr. Neilsen told ABC News. "Everybody in town is suffering the same fate we are."

UF Health Jacksonville has not canceled elective procedures amid the uptick in hospitalized COVID-19 patients, a spokesperson told Becker's. However, it is rescheduling electives that may require patients to stay several days in the hospital.


The University of Kansas Health System, based in Kansas City, Kan., is turning down transfer patients because of dwindling bed capacity, Steve Stites, MD, the health system's chief medical officer, told The Kansas City Star July  21.

"I think we’re at a tipping point," Dr. Stites said during a daily briefing, according to the newspaper. "If we don’t take it seriously, we could easily end up back where we were in November."

Dr. Stites said the hospital has turned down one to six acute patients daily amid an increase in COVID-19 patients and other patients returning for care. 


Missouri health officials reported 2,995 more COVID-19 cases in the state and the highest case total since mid-January on July 21, according to the Missouri Independent

Erik Frederick, chief administrative officer of Mercy Hospital in Springfield, Mo., tweeted July 21 that the hospital was treating 146 COVID-19 patients, more than half of them younger than 60.

Mr. Frederick said Mercy is planning its third COVID-19 intensive care unit.

"We do not want to prepare a bed for you. We need the community vaccinated. Mask until we get there," he tweeted.

Meanwhile, nearby Springfield-based CoxHealth was treating 161 COVID-19 patients July 22, Steve Edwards, president and CEO, tweeted.

"A week ago, we sadly surpassed the 500 lost lives mark. We have lost 26 more in the last seven days. To all the families, I am so sorry, I feel riddled with guilt that we have not able to speak loud and clearly enough to encourage more vaccinations," he said.

As of July 20, CoxHealth had brought in 175 traveling workers, according to Mr. Edwards. He said 46 more workers are scheduled to arrive by July 26.


Birch Wright, COO and administrator of Washington Regional Medical System in Fayetteville, Ark., said July 21 that the organization plans to move to the second phase of its COVID-19 surge plan because of "significant growth in COVID-19 cases and inpatient hospitalizations in our community."

He said moving to that phase allows the system to temporarily reassign some hospital and clinic team members to assist in hospital areas of most critical need, as well as move to a team-based nursing approach.

"These actions will allow us to expand our capacity, making it possible for us to care for an increased number of COVID and non-COVID patients," said Mr. Wright.

He reported July 21 that Northwest Arkansas hospitals were caring for more than 90 hospitalized patients, a 48 percent increase in the last week and a 538 percent increase in the last month.

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