By the end of July, Louisiana hospitals were full to bursting, mainly with victims of the Delta variant. Dr. Catherine O’Neal called the increase “exponential,” a word whose meaning seems to be underappreciated by a large part of the general public. This two-minute animation, which we have recommended before, is not an exact analogy, and is frankly kind of corny, but it really puts across what the concept of “exponential” is all about. Just picture each chessboard square as a hospital. Again, not an exact parallel, but it helps to have a mental picture of what relentless multiplication implies, especially now that a new variant of the Delta variant appears to be even more rampantly contagious than its progenitor.
By mid-August, in Tennessee, at Vanderbilt Health in Nashville, the Emergency Department and the Adult Hospital were bursting at the seams. People who needed surgery or other treatment for anything were pretty much out of luck, and no transfers were being accepted from other institutions. From another hospital in the same state, a spokesperson told the press, “In Middle Tennessee right now it is impossible to find an empty, staffed ICU, ER, or med/surg bed”:
The delta variant has burned through us with a ferocity that’s hard to describe. 6 weeks ago there were 200 Covid patients in hospitals in Tennessee. Today there are 2000.
At the same, competing with COVID kids for very limited resources, a different virus called RSV was putting children into hospitals all over the state, and nobody knows how many because there are no reporting requirements.
Meanwhile, Texas did not have a single unoccupied ICU bed, and the state put in a request to the federal government for five mortuary trailers. In Florida, 12 floors of Tampa General Hospital were devoted solely to COVID-19 patients and most of the state’s morgues were filled to capacity.
By the end of August, no ICU beds were available in the entire states of Arkansas and Oklahoma, and in Utah, the hospitals were overrun with new COVID cases, the overwhelming majority of whom were unvaccinated for whatever reasons. In Alabama, in a case that drew a lot of attention, doctors contacted 43 hospitals in three states, attempting to locate a cardiac ICU bed for a man who ended up dying.
With around 100,000 Americans hospitalized because of COVID-91, Dr. Peter J. Hotez wrote,
Patients with non-COVID-related illnesses and conditions such as heart attacks, strokes, and trauma are paying the price of unavailable hospital beds and emergency rooms.
[I]t’s not only an influx of patients but also the accumulating losses of trained health professionals that is so worrisome. Burnout has been a problem throughout the pandemic. Yet overwhelmed nurses and other hospital staff are leaving the profession and their posts due to a combination of factors that include exhaustion and the demoralization of taking care of so many dying young and middle-aged patients who refused vaccines.
To sum up, as an anonymous Twitter user put it, “Millions of people will suffer physical, psychological and financial consequences that will last months or years, a toll difficult to quantify.'”
(To be continued…)
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “Louisiana doctor says ‘exponential’ surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations ‘isn’t a controllable thing at this point’,” BusinessInsider.com, 07/29/21
Source: “‘Impossible to find’ empty ICU, ER beds in Middle Tennessee, hospital chief medical officer says,” Tennessean.com, 08/12/21
Source: “The Latest COVID-19 Surge Is Just the Start of a New Nightmare,” TheDailyBeast.com, 09/07/21
Image by Mark Bonica/CC BY 2.0