The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients nationwide passed the 100,000 mark Wednesday, an alarming statistic fueling enormous strain on the health care system and its brave but beleaguered workers.
Some experts said the total, compiled by the COVID Tracking Project and at 100,226 Wednesday night, could soon double. Robert Glatter, an emergency room physician at New York City’s Lenox Hill Hospital, said the country has reached a “dangerous inflection point.” “Explosive growth of the virus has the potential to overrun our ability to provide care. Not only for patients with COVID-19 but also for basic medical conditions.”
Many hospitals will be forced to suspend elective surgeries and other routine operations, set up temporary field hospitals and stretch staff to the limit, experts said. California Gov. Gavin Newsom said intensive care beds across the nation’s most-populous state could be full by mid-December. He warned that “drastic action,” including tightened stay-at-home orders, could come within days.
Little Rhode Island has a big problem, too. The state’s Emergency Alert System issued this message to residents this week: “RIGOV COVID ALERT: Hospitals at capacity due to COVID. Help the frontline by staying home as much as possible for the next two weeks. Work remotely if you can, avoid social gatherings, get tested. If we all decrease our mobility, we will save lives.” The state established two temporary field hospitals with a capacity of almost 1,000 beds to meet the fast-rising demand. New Mexico’s 534 intensive care beds were at 101% of capacity Tuesday – the highest rate in the nation, according to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said hospitalizations have reached a level not seen since the state was the focal point of the virus last spring.
“Our No. 1 priority is hospital capacity,” Cuomo said. “That has always been my nightmare.” Hospitalizations nationwide have soared well above previous pandemic highs of about 60,000 in the spring and summer virus surges. The November death toll of 36,918 fell short of monthly totals for April and May. Experts said November’s fatality total was lower – despite more than double the number of infections – because of several factors, including improved treatment plans and the higher concentration of cases among younger patients less likely to succumb to the virus.