As the hypertransmissible delta coronavirus variant continues its rampage through the unvaccinated, several states continue to set new COVID-19 cases records and many hospitals are hitting their limits.
At least five states have exceeded their previous peaks of seven-day averages for new daily cases—Florida, Louisiana, Hawaii, Oregon, and Mississippi. Seven states have exceeded their most recent peaks in hospitalizations—Arkansas, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oregon, and Washington.
Florida in particular has been ablaze with COVID-19. The Sunshine State exceeded its previous record average of around 16,000 new daily cases, which was set in January. The state is now averaging just under 22,000, according to data reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As for daily hospitalization tallies, Florida is currently at its all-time record of around 15,000, exceeding its previous highest peak of around 12,000 last July.
Federal health officials noted last week that shipments to Florida containing COVID-19 treatments, including monoclonal antibodies, increased eightfold over the past month. On Tuesday, the Florida Hospital Association reported that it soon expects 75 percent of hospitals in the state to reach critical staffing shortages.
“There can be no question that many Florida hospitals are stretched to their absolute limits,” Mary Mayhew, FHA president and CEO, said in a statement. “While hospitalizations continue to increase, three out of four Florida hospitals expect to face critical staff shortages in the next seven days, an increase of nearly ten percent since last week, and half of our hospitals will no longer accept transfer patients from other facilities.”
Nationwide, current US daily case are up 64 percent over the past two weeks. The current numbers rival those seen in early February when the country was coming down from its highest COVID peak in early January. About 75 percent of the country’s hospital and ICU beds are filled, according to data reported by the Department of Health and Human Services. And about one in five ICUs nationwide has reached or exceeded 95 percent occupancy.
Hospitalizations, severe disease, and death from COVID-19 continue to occur almost entirely among people who are unable or unwilling to get vaccinated. Currently, only 51 percent of the US is fully vaccinated. With filling hospitals, health experts warn that quality of care can decrease, leading to delayed treatments, worse outcomes for patients, and higher overall mortality rates.
Health experts expect that things will only get worse into the autumn as the hypertransmissible delta variant continues to spread. Delta is already estimated to account for more than 90 percent of infections nationwide. Meanwhile, we’re heading into a new school year and colder weather, both of which can increase transmission of COVID-19, as well as other seasonal plagues.
The current high transmission, delta’s dominance, and a grim-looking fall likely all contributed to the reported decision by the Biden administration to soon begin offering booster shots. However, as CDC experts laid out last week, the most effective way to curb transmission is to get more shots into unvaccinated arms.