The resurgence of the coronavirus not only threatens to overwhelm hospitals and the number of beds they have to treat patients, but it also puts enormous strain on the workers themselves and their ability to manage cases.
“The death rates really accelerate as ICU staff starts to get overwhelmed,” Dr. Peter Hotez, co-director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children’s Hospital, said in a recent interview with National Public Radio.
The spike in cases has left more than 7 million people currently infected, which implies that nearly 2% of the population is likely to be fighting the myriad respiratory, liver, heart and cognitive effects of the disease over many months ahead. And according to the COVID Tracking Program, current COVID-19 hospitalizations have pushed past 114,000.
A recent analysis by Bloomberg suggested that in the last week of November, one in five U.S. hospitals was anticipating a critical staff shortage. An analysis by NPR put the hard-hit states of the northern tier and Midwest at greatest risk.
These strains come with unintended consequences as other patients who do not have COVID-19 but are still in need of medical care suffer.
“The less-appreciated ravage has been excess morbidity and mortality from patients who have forgone essential care due to patient fears of contracting COVID-19 in health care settings,” Jonathan B. Perlin, chief medical officer at HCA Healthcare, wrote recently in the JAMA Network, a publication of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Restrictions set by policymakers “to ensure capacity for patients with COVID-19,” though well-intended, have added to the problem, he wrote.
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