With Covid-19 Deaths on the Rise, Hardest-Hit States Report Hospitals are Near Capacity Following Early Reopenings

By Julia Conley, staff writer, Common Dreams. Originally published at Common Dreams

Following weeks of warnings from public health experts regarding the dangers of allowing the public into bars, restaurants, and other enclosed spaces while coronavirus case numbers continue to rise in several states, hospitals in two of the hardest-hit states showed signs that the pandemic has spun out of control in the United States’ current epicenters.

According to Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration, 85% of the state’s intensive care unit (ICU) beds were full as of Saturday morning. Fewer than 1,000 beds are currently available for patients who become critically ill with Covid-19 in a state where more than 11,000 new cases were reported on Friday. More than 9,000 new cases and 421 new hospitalizations were reported on Saturday.

Across the country, in Arizona, 90% of ICU beds were reported to be full according to The Guardian. 

Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of tropical medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, told CNN Friday evening that like healthcare workers did in New York City in April as hospitals rapidly became overrun with victims of the coronavirus pandemic, doctors and nurses in Arizona, Florida, and other states where cases are skyrocketing may soon become overwhelmed by the demand.

“We will have hospitals overwhelmed and not only in terms of ICU beds and hospitals—and that’s bad—but exhausted hospital staff and hospital staff that [are] getting ill themselves,” Hotez said. “So, we won’t have enough manpower, human power, to manage all of this.”

In Florida, at least 52 hospitals are currently at full capacity in their ICU’s, but Gov. Ron DeSantis, a loyalist to President Donald Trump who began pushing to reopen the state’s economy in early May, downplayed the situation.

“There’ll be articles saying, ‘Oh, my gosh. They’re at 90 percent,'” DeSantis said at a press conference Friday. “Well, that’s how hospitals normally run.”

As tens of thousands of people in Florida became ill over the past two days, the state reopened Walt Disney World, one of its top tourist attractions, while DeSantis stressed the importance of schools reopening in the fall.

DeSantis was forced on June 26 to direct bars to shut down again as case numbers skyrocketed, nearly two months after he began the process of reopening. But grim new statistics across the state indicated that the effects of the early reopening are coming to light now.

Florida was among several states which recently saw significant increases in their seven-day averages for coronavirus deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

“It’s consistently picking up. And it’s picking up at the time you’d expect it to,” William Hanage, a Harvard University infectious diseases researcher, told The Guardian Saturday of the nationwide death toll, whose increases are currently being driven mainly by California, Texas, Florida, Arizona, South Carolina, Illinois, and New Jersey.

In Arizona on Friday evening, some morgues reported that they were near capacity, with Maricopa Office of the Medical Examiner saying it was 97% full.

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, a Democrat, criticized Republican Gov. Doug Ducey’s decision to begin reopening the state in mid-May.

“We opened way too early in Arizona. We were one of the last states to go to stay at home and one of the first to reemerge, and we reemerged at zero to 60,” Gallego told ABC News. “We had crowded nightclubs handing out free champagne, no masks. Our 20- to 44-year-olds, which is my own demographic, really led the explosion, and we’ve seen such growth in that area.”

Like DeSantis, Ducey was forced in late June to pause the reopenings of some establishments, including bars, gyms, and movie theaters.

The state reported more than 3,000 new cases on Saturday, but as of Saturday afternoon Ducey had not announced any new reopening policy changes.

 

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42 comments

  1. sd

    If you look at the Johns Hopkins charts, for California, the uptick starts May 18.

    In response to growing pressure that began the first week of May, Governor Newsom started accelerating the reopening of businesses on May 18. Personally, Newsom’s fortune is tied to a wine and restaurant group, Plumpjack, and while it’s nice to think that a blind trust prevents influence, that sounds hopelessly naive.

    It’s clear the nation needed conisistent guidelines and support at the federal level to temper expectations if not bullying the states to remain vigilant.

    What a disaster.

    Reply
  2. The Rev Kev

    Just to put this into a bit of context, I checked into figures from worldometers. It is obvious that several million Americans are or have been or have been again infected by this virus but let us go with the figures from worldometers for the moment. They state that the US has had 3,356,242 cases in total with 137,414 recorded deaths. Considering the fact that the US has a population of about 335 million people, then you come up with the conclusion that with all these deaths and chaos and economic & social disruption, that still only 1% of the total population of America has been infected.

    Reply
    1. sd

      I don’t see how an infection rate of 1:100 is in any way comforting given the damage that COVID-19 inflicts.

      Reply
      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        India has had 22,674 Covid deaths so far. This year they will have approximately 450,000 deaths from tuberculosis. Why was the world not locked down for tuberculosis? There are something like 100 companies working on a Covid vaccine with massive funding available; there are a total of *2* companies working on a tuberculosis vaccine and both are struggling financially.

        Is your spidey sense tingling? Mine is.

        Reply
        1. thoughtful person

          TB not as big in rich countries where it has been controlled, so not a global threat. Of course in a person focused (vs profit focused) world TB would be controlled in poor countries too

          Reply
        2. Crazy AI

          Yes, my spidey sense is telling me that being nonchalant about the Covid disease is reprehensible because of the long term damage that ignoring the disease will have to our economy and to individuals will be catastrophic.

          So, there will be tens of thousands of people who “recover” from Covid that have long term consequences like permanent lung damage and cognitive issues. So the “lets just wing it” attitude of the leaders will be viewed as the greatest public policy disaster in 100 years… in 200 years.

          Comparing this disease that is running rampant in the US, a supposedly developed nation, to TB in a developing nation looks like a desire to be an apologist for the government officials who screwed up in a massive, historic manner, and screwed up more than anyone in living memory has.

          Reply
    2. The Rev Kev

      Sorry guys. Wasn’t supposed to be comforting. Gave up trying to be an optimist or a pessimist and am now trying to be just a realost. What I should have tacked onto that comment was the remark that the next time someone goes on about ‘herd immunity’, those figures will hopefully shut them up. This won’t be over until every country treats this pandemic for what it is – a life or death situation.

      Reply
      1. Amfortas the hippie

        I remain suspicious of the numbers, especially in Texas, where i have friends, family and acquaintances in healthcare, law enforcement, government, etc.
        and also the unusual circumstances of my county, where we know everyone,…the anecdata don’t gel with the official numbers, at all.
        consensus is that it’s much worse than is being reported.
        time will tell, i suppose.
        thankfully, we only know one person who has died from covid…most of the folks we know who have had it have so far had symptoms that, while often pretty bad, were not enough to send them to a hospital.
        those recovered report continuing weirdness…like still haven’t got their taste/smell back…trouble breathing of a sudden…etc.
        having our ongoing and unmitigated crises of legitimacy right now is less than optimal.

        Reply
        1. John Rose

          I am interested in your comments about those who have recovered. Thinking very broadly, my concern is not so much the deaths (enormous emotional pain and loss but not so much societal loss otherwise since so many are marginal contributors to societal functioning) but the ongoing impairment of the vast majority who recover added to the societal losses of our efforts at containment.
          The impairment of societal functioning we are experiencing today is frightening. Two glimmers of hope. The extraordinary cooperation being reported among medical entities of all kinds and the extraordinary level of positive support for reform of policing.
          There seems to be a significant increase in awareness of our interdependence. Time to grow up!

          Reply
          1. anon y'mouse

            to mangle a common aphorism:

            “every time a person dies, a library burns to the ground”

            your “not so much societal loss” indicates that your class is showing. best put on a slip & cover that up.

            sounds as sociopathic as any economist.

            Reply
              1. tegnost

                yeah like the meat packers, nurses, teachers, garbage collectors truckers and et al only contribute marginally, while banksters, private equity, hospital administrators and pharma sales people, well we just couldn’t live without those people /s

                Reply
        2. Andrew Thomas

          Thank you for that, Amfortas. In Florida, the numbers are also beyond highly questionable, and there is more than anecdotal evidence of it. To remind, long ago it was reported that no one is counted unless they are residents. Then, when the combined numbers of the county medical examiners were noticeably higher than the state board of health numbers, the examiners were told by higher-ups to shut up, which they did. Then, the woman who put together the computer tracking system for the state was fired when she didn’t shut up, and then smeared with a charge of sexual harassment. That was weeks ago, and at that point, I stopped paying attention. Perhaps some other Floridians with stronger stomachs can give further updates on our situation.

          Reply
          1. Amfortas the hippie

            don’t know how this ended up in a tab, way over to the right,lol.
            but it’s germane to this discussion:
            https://www.pewresearch.org/pathways-2020/COVIDCOUNT2/political_party/us_adults

            ball of confusion.
            “% of each group who think errors in the reported number of deaths from the coronavirus in the U.S. are mostly …
            Intentional Not intentional Does not think the reported number of deaths is inaccurate Refused
            Total U.S. adults 44%
            33%
            23%
            1%
            Rep/Lean Rep 57%
            19%
            24%
            0%
            Dem/Lean Dem 33%
            45%
            21%
            “—sorry…don’t know how to do that…it’s arrived at by scrolling down the list of questions at mid-bottom left

            Reply
      2. pebird

        Rev, I read it your way the first time. The only thing I would add is that the 1% is a minimum number of infections – identified via testing. The US likely has much more, but even if 10x, there is a long way to go.

        Very little good news on the horizon, I’m afraid.

        Reply
        1. The Rev Kev

          The ink rubbed off the ‘i’ and ‘o’ keys on my keyboard last week. As they are next to each other, I am now constantly mixing them up. I meant to say ‘realist’ but when I thought how dodgy those figures are, I guess that I am ‘real lost.’ :)

          Reply
  3. Arizona Slim

    Slim checking in from Tucson. Our governor, Doug Doofus, is getting all sorts of criticism. Deservedly so. Here’s a shot from our state’s former health department director:

    https://www.kgun9.com/news/coronavirus/former-health-dept-chief-raps-covid-response

    OTOH, I have to give credit where credit is due. This is my city councilman’s weekly newsletter. The local response to COVID has been on target.

    https://www.tucsonaz.gov/ward-3/news/pauls-note-friday-may-15-2020

    Reply
  4. T

    Sonoma Cou ty opened up to tourists again, allowing short trm rentals and outdoor dining, mask use is pretty good, however it as clearly to early.
    Schools are still planning to reopen, however I expect that to change as more get sick and die.
    Early days yet and it’s going to get a lot rougher.

    Reply
  5. CoryP

    DeSantis’ comment: “ Well, that’s how hospitals normally run” is something I’ve been thinking about.

    In Ontario where I live our hospital (tho maybe not ICU) typically run at or over 100% after years of austerity. Only since the Covid shut down has it dropped below 80% occupancy. A local hospital official quipped “wow, I wish we could do this all the time!”. Yeah, you and me both.

    But anyway, what I’m saying is absolute numbers are potentially or actually misleading when the baseline healthcare utilization isn’t taken into consideration. We need change-over-time data and graphs etc. If you told me my local hospital was operating at 100% capacity… before 2020 I’d be like yeah so, what else is new?

    These figures need proper context. Playing devils advocate, a local could see such a headline and conclude they were being alarmist because their threadbare system is usually running at capacity even during calm times.

    Reply
    1. Aumua

      Yeah, the problem is these numbers don’t mean much by themselves. They’re just big, scary numbers. I hate to say it, but the Florida governor is right. It’s just like massive new daily case numbers. Without any additional context or supporting data, it could simply be more testing = more cases. Now percent positive of those tested, that’s a figure that actually means something. In the same vein, percent increase in ICU bed utilization over baseline would be useful, but 90% by itself doesn’t tell me anything, which makes me wonder if it’s not just a scare tactic. I don’t like wondering that, because I’m trying to take this thing seriously.

      Reply
    1. Amfortas the hippie

      i don’t have a clue how internet addresses are arrived at, but the neologism “covidiot” really leaps out of that one.
      good find.

      the one time i was (mildly) confronted about mask wearing, i said “it ain’t a political statement, it’s an IQ test.”.
      since i am regarded as scary-smart by this person(who is no dumbas$, himself), it hit home, apparently, as i’ve seen him wearing a mask since.

      Reply
    2. T in Texas

      Saw that article yesterday. My favorite lines in the article.

      Xie and his colleagues found that those with better working memory capacity were more likely to indicate that they had followed social distancing guidelines, such as not shaking hands and avoiding social gatherings.

      The researchers also found that higher levels of fluid intelligence and agreeableness were associated with greater social distancing compliance.

      I think my going forward response to non-maskers will be: I see that your dealing with lower levels of fluid intelligence.

      I

      Reply
  6. Eugene

    Not to sound like a shit disturber here, but the one thing that has struck me in all this, is the lack of that this is a wake up call from the GOD’s that be. No religious speak, absolutely none. Where are those religious believers? Even the born again V P is silent on this, as is the great leader. So be it for those who put their faith out there, whether wearing it on their shoulder or ?

    Reply
    1. Code Name D

      You haven’t been paying much attention then, have you. Here is an example of what some religious groups are thinking.
      https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/bednar-covid-19-pandemic-religious-freedom
      This is a matter that has pledged the Kansas State House (as I am sure it has elsewhere.) where the changers have voted to strip the governor of the power to close down religious services or force them to practice basic social distancing steps.

      Restoring religious “freedoms” in Kansas is a direct contributor to the Covid spikes. While Covid’s impact religious freedoms is a worthy conversation, at some point one must deal with the reality of Covid itself.

      Reply
    2. kareninca

      I’m religious; a Christian. My particular sect is of the view that this is a bat virus that originated in China. Nothing to do with God. Of course, we have to turn to God and Christ as part of our way of dealing with the ensuing misery. Along with wearing masks. These are these things called history books; it seems that pandemics have occurred often enough.

      I’m not sure what you were expecting.

      Reply
    3. Massinissa

      I have to agree with D. Some denominations have been very vocal about how much they hate the lockdown. Its just, nobody, not even right wing news, really gives a damn about what they’re saying because its not really relevant. You mostly can’t find it outside of explicitly religious sites and publications, things which even much of the religious right don’t care to read much anymore.

      Reply
  7. juliania

    The religious among us (and I am one), Eugene (lovely name!) are too busy in prayer to be directing ourselves to speculation:

    Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    And renew a right spirit within me
    Cast me not away from Thy presence
    And take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.
    O give me the comfort of Thy help again,
    And establish me with Thy free Spirit.
    Then shall I teach Thy ways unto the godless
    And sinners shall be turned unto Thee.

    As much as we ourselves have fallen short in this terrible crisis, that is where our hearts are at present.

    Reply
    1. Late Introvert

      So you want to convert me so I can attend your services, essential that they are, in a crowd with no mask? Nice.

      Reply
      1. Angie Neer

        Hello Late, I think your ire at juliania is misdirected. I don’t see anything in her post about forcing you to attend services without a mask. It looks to me like the opposite–an expression of humility.

        Reply
      2. kareninca

        I would love to convert you to my Christian sect! But not in order for you to attend our services in person. Since we switched to zoom, early on, even though we are in general not at all inclined to technology.

        An odd upshot of this is that we have far better attendance than we did in person. People are now attending our services from all over the world. In the past it was just a few people in Ohio and nearby states.

        Reply
        1. Amfortas the hippie

          “People are now attending our services from all over the world.”

          that’s a pretty neat side effect.
          a lot closer to the Ideal of the WWW than what twit, etc has managed.

          Reply
          1. kareninca

            Yes, I am in California. I had never been able to attend services. Now I can. The pandemic is so horrible; of course I would rather go my entire life without attending than have anything bad happen to anyone. But I still can’t help being happy that I can attend now; it is a great solace. And we now have people from Bolivia and the Philippines and Canada and England and Australia. It is a sect from the 1600s; it was dying; now it is growing.

            One of our members in NYC died of the virus; another in our nursing facilities in Ohio died of it and a couple of elderly residents have survived it. I have a relative in Connecticut who died of it; one of our members had a relative in Mass. die of it. It is a terrible illness.

            Reply
  8. JWP

    Concerned about the hospital staff getting sick/depressed/not being able to work. Who will they be replaced with? Fast tracked med students who finished their last year of schooling virtually? Many of my friends in med school are afraid of the long term consequences both for the pandemic and for future patients. With the barrier to entry already artificially high for doctors, nurses, and med school in general, we are shooting ourselves in the foot.

    Reply
  9. Jack

    Trying to figure out how New Jersey gets into the “increasing” story. All the numbers are quite low now.

    Reply
    1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

      Here’s a map for you:

      1. There is new data. Can it be spun to make Orange Man look bad? If yes, then trumpet far and wide. The increase in fear will also be great for the bottom line.
      2. There is new data that could make Orange Man look good. 2 options: bury it, or think of and trumpet counter-interpretations.

      Unrelated example: USA Today reports that the American Eagle symbol used by Trump is a Nazi symbol. They fact check: True. No mention of the fact that Nancy Pelosi uses the same symbol.

      With Covid we’re supposed to be on “a war footing”. Difference from 1942? This time around the entire press corps is rooting not for the president but for the other side. Apparently this is so a different set of war criminal billionaire Wall St people can be put in The White House. Q: won’t they have to change the name of said house?

      Reply
  10. ptb

    Focusing on FL for a bit … the demographics suggest a significant (but not apocalyptic) increase in death rate is on the way from current levels. Basing that on the current trend of about 10% of the daily infections being age 65+, which is in the 1000/day ballpark. Keep that up for 6-8 weeks and you get 50000 at-risk cases. The outcomes are hard to predict of course, but hard to see how FL voters forgive the Republican party for this.

    Reply

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