Covid News: US Hospitalizations Break Record as Omicron Surges

Credit…Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

The number of Americans hospitalized with Covid-19 has surpassed last winter’s peak, underscoring the seriousness of the threat the virus continues to pose as the highly contagious variant of Omicron tears the United States apart.

On Sunday, 142,388 people with the virus were hospitalized nationwide, according to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services, surpassing the one-day peak of 142,315 reported on January 14 last year. The seven-day average of daily hospitalizations was 132,086, an increase of 83% from two weeks ago.

The Omicron wave overwhelmed hospitals and exhausted staff already exhausted by the Delta variant. It was drawn largely by people under the age of 60. Among people over 60, daily admissions are still lower than last winter.

Hospitalization totals also include people who tested positive for the virus after being admitted for conditions unrelated to Covid-19; there are no national data indicating the number of people in this category.

As cases have soared in recent weeks to an average of more than 737,000 a day, far more than last winter’s peak, public health officials have argued that the number of cases was of limited importance because Omicron is less virulent than Delta and other variants, and vaccines, and especially boosters, offered protection against serious diseases.

But the sheer volume of the surge has overwhelmed hospitals across the country. And outside of cities like New York, where Omicron struck early and pushed hospitals to the brink, it’s unlikely to have peaked.

Current hospitalizations are one of the most reliable measures of the severity of the pandemic over time, as they are not influenced by the availability of tests or by spikes in minor cases.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, told ABC News last week that it was “much more relevant to focus on hospitalizations,” which lag behind cases.

About a quarter of U.S. hospitals are experiencing severe staffing shortages, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Some states, like Oregon, have deployed the National Guard to help. Others, like Illinois and Massachusetts, are delaying elective surgeries — that is, scheduled surgeries, as opposed to an emergency, a category that can include procedures like a mastectomy for a cancer patient. . In some cases, employees with asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic coronavirus infections worked, potentially putting patients at risk.

After nearly two years, “even the most dedicated people are going to be tired and exhausted, even exhausted and face mental health issues as a result,” said Dr. Mahshid Abir, an emergency physician at the University of Michigan. is a researcher at the RAND Corporation.

Data in some of the first cities hit by Omicron also shows deaths are rising sharply – not as fast as case rates, but fast enough to warn of more devastation to come.

Doctors, nurses and other medical staff also fall ill themselves, and although most are vaccinated and have not needed hospitalization, their illness still prevents them from working. Now hospitals overwhelmed with coronavirus patients are ill-equipped to handle other emergencies like heart attacks, appendicitis and traumatic injuries.

“Demand goes up and supply goes down, and that doesn’t paint a good picture of people and communities – not just for Covid, but for everything else,” Dr Abir said.

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