ICU capacity tested once again
Sharp increase in new cases brings Utah hospitals close to "crisis standards of care," meaning some critically ill patients may be left to die instead of receiving treatment.
Earlier today, paid subscribers received a bonus “state of the epidemic” article that I wrote. Thank you to everyone who helps support this publication.
The USA’s COVID-19 rate by virtually every measure is rising sharply. Deaths remain well under the peak that was reached in April, but 871 deaths on Friday is part of a trend that has gone steadily upward since October 1.
Although not every expert has the same dire predictions as the epidemiologists at the University of Washington, there are few reasons to believe that communities are getting control over the novel coronavirus — even New York and California are now back to “trending poorly” according to CovidExitStrategy.org.
With a mobile society and inconsistent guidelines from state to state, confining the epidemic at this stage is virtually impossible. To most public health experts, that does not mean that COVID-19 cannot be controlled, as White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows suggested on Sunday.
Hospitals in Utah are approaching a surge beyond capacity, meaning that they would have to implement “crisis standards of care.” That’s the formal name given to what most people would call “rationing” based on healthcare providers’ assessment of a person’s survival chances and, in worst-case situations, likely years of productive life. In other words, an older COVID-19 patient might get removed from a ventilator so that a younger person gets an ICU bed. El Paso, Texas, is setting up a surge facility and reports hospitals at capacity, as well.
Demand for hospital ICU beds for seriously ill COVID-19 patients will more than double by December 31, according to the latest projections from the University of Washington. However, the projected death tally has been revised somewhat downward, with the likely COVID-19 death toll in the USA forecast to pass 316,000 within the next 10 weeks.
Lack of available medical staff has been a major factor in hospital bed availability in North Dakota and other states, and the trend is worsening as COVID-19 surges in rural locations, according to Kaiser Health News.
A COVID-19 testing program in the San Francisco area run by Google’s Verily Life Sciences has been halted. Health officials raised concerns that the program’s requirement that each person tested had to sign-in using their Google or GMail account created a barrier, especially for minority and underserved individuals. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and others sent a letter to state officials explaining the concerns.
Despite successful control of COVID-19 after the Spring surges, much of Europe now sees dramatic spikes in new infections and new, severe control measures are being implemented.
The U.S. military is preparing to assist only with the logistics of a mass-COVID-19 vaccination program. Military personnel will not be involved directly in administering vaccines in the USA, the Pentagon says.
Here’s to keeping those faces covered whenever you’re near anyone who doesn’t live with you.