Hits ‘keep coming’: Hospitals struggle as COVID beds fill

Dec 17, 2021, 6:47 PM | Updated: Dec 18, 2021, 6:11 pm
Natalie Balli, 71, and her twin sister, Linda Calderon, background right, watch TV as they rest in ...

Natalie Balli, 71, and her twin sister, Linda Calderon, background right, watch TV as they rest in their beds in a COVID-19 unit at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Los Angeles, Friday, Dec. 17, 2021. The sisters were admitted to the hospital on the same day, a few days after their Thanksgiving gathering. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

DETROIT (AP) — Hospitals across the country are struggling to cope with burnout among doctors, nurses and other workers, already buffeted by a crush of patients from the ongoing surge of the COVID-19 delta variant and now bracing for the fallout of another highly transmissible mutation.

Ohio became the latest state to summon the National Guard to help overwhelmed medical facilities. Experts in Nebraska warned that its hospitals soon may need to ration care. Medical officials in Kansas and Missouri are delaying surgeries, turning away transfers and desperately trying to hire traveling nurses, as cases double and triple in an eerie reminder of last year’s holiday season.

“There is no medical school class that can prepare you for this level of death,” said Dr. Jacqueline Pflaum-Carlson, an emergency medicine specialist at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit. “The hits just keep coming.”

The national seven-day average of COVID-19 hospital admissions was 60,000 by Wednesday, far off last winter’s peak but 50% higher than in early November, the government reported. The situation is more acute in cold-weather regions, where people are increasingly gathering inside and new infections are piling up.

New York state reported Saturday that slightly more than 21,900 people had tested positive for COVID-19 the day before, a new high since tests became widely available. Consequences of the latest surge have been swift in New York City: The Rockettes Christmas show was scratched for the season; some Broadway shows canceled performances because of outbreaks among cast members; and “Saturday Night Live” announced it was taping without a live audience and with only limited cast and crew.

“We are in a situation where we are now facing a very important delta surge and we are looking over our shoulder at an oncoming omicron surge,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, said of the two COVID-19 variants.

At AdventHealth Shawnee Mission, a hospital near Kansas City, Missouri, chief medical officer Dr. Lisa Hays said the emergency department is experiencing backups sometimes lasting for days.

“The beds are not the issue. It’s the nurses to staff the beds. … And it’s all created by rising COVID numbers and burnout,” Hays said. “Our nurses are burnt out.”

Experts attribute most of the rise in cases and hospitalizations to infections among people who have not been inoculated against the coronavirus. The government says 61% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated.

Dr. Steve Stites, chief medical officer at University of Kansas Health System in Kansas City, Kansas, said the “pandemic of the unvaccinated” continues to swamp the hospital and its workers.

“There’s no place to go. Our staff are tired. We’re going to run out of travelers,” Stites said, referring to visiting health care workers, “and omicron is at our doorstep. This is a tornado warning to our community.”

Ohio’s National Guard deployment is one of the largest seen during the pandemic, with more than 1,000 members sent to beleaguered hospitals especially in the Akron, Canton and Cleveland areas.

As of Friday, 4,723 people in the state were hospitalized with the coronavirus, a number last seen about a year ago, Gov. Mike DeWine said. Some staffers were taking only short breaks before punching in for second shifts, he added.

Health systems elsewhere that are doing somewhat better are nervously eyeing the arrival of the omicron variant and girding themselves for the impact.

Nebraska officials said hospitals might have to put some care on hold to make room for COVID-19 patients. While case numbers are down from the state’s pandemic peak, they could rebound rapidly, and bed availability remains tight because of patients with non-virus ailments.

“It may be likely that omicron will cause a giant surge, and honestly we can’t handle that right now,” said Dr. Angela Hewlett of Nebraska Medicine in Omaha.

At Los Angeles’ Providence Holy Cross Medical Center, just 17 coronavirus patients were being treated there Friday, a small fraction of the hospital’s worst stretch. Nurse manager Edgar Ramirez said his co-workers are weary but better prepared if a wave hits.

“The human factor of having that fear is always going to be there,” Ramirez said. “I tell our crew, ‘We have to talk through this. We have to express ourselves.’ Otherwise it’s going to tough.”

Twin sisters Linda Calderon and Natalie Balli, 71, had planned to get vaccinated but delayed it until it was too late. Now they’re on oxygen in the same room at Providence Holy Cross, their beds separated by just a few feet.

“We kept saying, ‘we’ll do it tomorrow.’ But tomorrow never came,” Calderon said as she watched her sister struggle to breathe. “We really regret not getting the shots, because if we did, we wouldn’t be like this right now.”

Pflaum-Carlson, the doctor at Detroit’s Henry Ford Health, made a public plea for people to get the shots both for their benefit and for those toiling on the frontlines of care. Eighty percent of the roughly 500 COVID-19 patients at the system’s five hospitals were unvaccinated,

“Have a little grace and consideration in how devastating things are right now,” she said.

___

AP journalists Eugene Garcia and Jae Hong in Los Angeles, Heather Hollingsworth in Kansas City, Missouri, and Andrew Welsh-Huggins in Columbus, Ohio, contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Serb member of the Bosnian Presidency Milorad Dodik speaks during campaign rally of Alliance of Ind...
Associated Press

Bosnian Serb separatist leader blasts West, praises Russia

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — Facing an election this weekend, Bosnian Serb separatist leader Milorad Dodik blasted the West and praised Vladimir Putin over his policies in the Balkans, boasting that he is a rare European politician who can meet with the Russian president anytime he wishes. Dodik’s comments made at a preelection rally late Tuesday […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

French Senate report denounces sexual abuse in porn industry

PARIS (AP) — Sexual and physical abuse in France’s porn industry is “systemic” and lawmakers should better regulate the production of videos and protect children who are “heavily exposed” to the content, according to a French Senate report released Wednesday. . The report, titled “Hell Behind the Scenes,” was the first prepared for the French […]
1 day ago
FILE — Members of the Mifflin Guard, consisting of re-enactors from New York, New Jersey and Penn...
Associated Press

Hold fire: Re-enactors fear being targeted by NY gun law

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Some historical battle re-enactors in New York are holding their musket fire because of worries over the state’s new gun rules — an unplanned side effect of a law designed to protect the public’s safety. The law that went into effect this month declares parks, government property and a long list […]
1 day ago
This photo provided by Hyundai shows the 2022 Hyundai Elantra N, a sporty sedan based on an economy...
Associated Press

Edmunds: Hyundai Elantra N vs Volkswagen Golf GTI

Hyundai is one of just a few automakers that offer sporty performance-oriented versions of its small cars, and one of its newest is the 2022 Elantra N. Based on the redesigned and sharply styled Elantra small sedan, the N has a high-output engine, a sport-tuned suspension, upgraded brakes and other enhancements. It’s a bona-fide sport […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Pope presses Muslim dialogue message with Bahrain visit

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis will travel to Bahrain in November to press his message of dialogue with the Muslim world, the first pope to visit the country the Vatican said Wednesday. Bahrain is home to the Gulf’s first Catholic Church, located in the capital Manama, as well as its biggest one, Our Lady […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Prosecutors raid headquarters of German far-right party

BERLIN (AP) — The far-right Alternative for Germany party said Wednesday its national headquarters in Berlin were searched by officials with the city’s prosecutor’s office. “Since this morning, the Berlin public prosecutor’s office has been conducting a house search in the premises of the federal headquarters of Alternative for Germany, without any prior inquiry having […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
Hits ‘keep coming’: Hospitals struggle as COVID beds fill