The United States on Wednesday surpassed 100,000 COVID-19 coronavirus hospitalizations — a record-high since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the COVID Tracking Project. Hospitalizations have more than tripled nationwide since October 1, leaving healthcare systems stretched thin as facilities begin to run out of room for new patients.
South Dakota, Nevada and Indiana lead the nation in hospitalizations per capita, while California has the highest number with 9,365 hospitalizations, according to the COVID Tracking Project. Governor Gavin Newsom said California’s hospital system cannot sustain patients at its current rate of 75% ICU capacity. If current rates stay steady or increase, California will run out of ICU beds before December 25, a fear hospitals in South Dakota, Indiana and Nevada are already facing.
In Reno, the Renown Regional Medical Center is currently caring for 30 patients at the hospital’s alternate care site, a parking garage. Since the onset of the pandemic, Renown’s staff have treated over 219 patients at the alternate care site.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the “overall weekly hospitalization rate is at its highest point in the pandemic, with additional steep increases in individuals aged 65 years and older.” With the current number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients, there are 66% more people currently hospitalized now than there were during the first peak in April, when large cities around the country began to run out of hospital beds.
Some states are also grappling with how to staff hospitals. More than 1,000 hospitals across the country are experiencing critical staffing shortages, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
“The reality is, December, January and February are going to be rough times, I actually believe they’re going to be the most difficult time in the public health history of this nation — largely because of the stress that’s going to put on our healthcare system,” Director Dr. Robert Redfield said Wednesday during a U.S. Chamber of Commerce event.
“I do think unfortunately before we see February, we could be close to 450,000 Americans [dead] from this virus,” Redfield said while urging Americans to continue mitigation efforts such as social distancing, wearing masks, limiting crowds and to not let their guards down during family gatherings.
Britain on Wednesday became the first country to approve Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. The U.S. is expected to follow suit in the upcoming weeks. If Pfizer and Moderna Inc.’s vaccines are given emergency approval by the Food and Drug Safety administration, federal officials overseeing the distribution said the first vaccine could be available in the U.S. as early as December 15.
Max Bayer contributed reporting.