The total number of Covid-19 infections in the United States since the start of the pandemic surpassed 40 million on Monday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, as a fourth wave fueled by the delta variant is pushing the hospital systems in many states to their breaking point.
Back on Memorial Day in late May, which many consider the unofficial start of summer, the U.S. was averaging fewer than 25,000 cases per day, but that number had risen above 160,000 by Labor Day.
The daily case count in the U.S. is 316% higher than Labor Day weekend last year, and hospitalizations are up 158% from a year ago, USA Today reported Monday.
“Last year, most of us were just burnt out because it was depressing and tragic,” said Claire White, an ICU nurse at Mercy Hospital Northwest in Arkansas. “Now, it’s still depressing and tragic, but it could’ve been avoided.”
With the delta variant of the coronavirus sweeping through the country, more than 102,000 Americans were hospitalized with Covid-19 as of Sunday, according to a New York Times database. The average daily number of patients hospitalized by Covid-19 has climbed past 100,000 for the first time since the first week in February. As a result, medical facilities nationwide that have been worn thin by the relentless onslaught of the virus over the past 18 months are once again being stretched to or beyond capacity. Last week, Idaho Gov. Brad Little (R) stated only four, out of nearly 400, adult ICU beds were available in the entire state. “We are dangerously close to activating statewide crisis standards of care,” Little said. “In essence, someone would have to decide who can be treated and who cannot.” There were just eight available ICU beds in Arkansas in mid-August. Gov. Kate Brown (D-Ore.) announced last month she would deploy up to 1,500 National Guard members to support frontline health care workers. Oregon’s Health Authority reported over the weekend that only 50 of 638 hospital beds were open. According to the most recent data from the Department of Health and Human Services, more than 75% of all inpatient beds in the country are occupied.
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After the number of vaccine doses administered in the U.S. bottomed out at approximately 500,000 doses a day in late July, providers are now administering about 950,000 daily doses on average. However, 47% of all Americans are still not fully vaccinated, which has enabled the delta variant to spread. The Biden Administration had planned to make Covid-19 booster shots available to the general public in late September. However, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday it’s “conceivable” that only Pfizer’s shot will be approved by Sept. 20. Moderna’s jab may be delayed “at the most a couple of weeks.”
According to The Associated Press, the pandemic has led to a nurse staffing crisis that is forcing many hospitals to significantly increase wages to keep staff on the job. “You leave work at the end of the day just exhausted by the effort it takes to (dig) that compassion up for people who are not taking care of themselves and the people around them,” said Risa Moriarity, an executive at the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s emergency department.