Detailed data released this week by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services illustrates the dire impact of the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic on the nation’s hospitals.
From Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles to St. Vincent’s in Birmingham, Alabama, to Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, USA TODAY found 257 hospitals reporting full intensive care units as of Christmas Eve. A total of 948 hospitals reported more COVID-19 patients in the ICU compared with the previous week, and 1,552 had more COVID-19 patients overall.
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This data, reported by more than 4,500 hospitals for the week of Dec. 18-24, does not include hospitals run by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Defense Health Agency and Indian Health Service. Figures from some small hospitals have been removed from the HHS data set.
COVID-19 cases are soaring nationwide: More than 5.7 million cases have been reported in December. More than 66,000 have died of the disease in December, making it the deadliest month to date for COVID-19 in America.
HHS began reporting individual hospital occupancy rates in December, including detailed statistics for intensive care units. Hospitals whose intensive care units were at or above capacity the week of Christmas are shown in the map below.
The COVID-19 rate is the number of adult patients confirmed or suspected of being infected divided by the number of inpatient beds that would be allowed under normal limits on space and staffing. Occupancy can exceed 100% if a hospital exceeds those limits.
Intensive care units are filling up disproportionately in counties in Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Alabama, the data shows. Of the 206 counties nationwide with average hospital ICU occupancy above 90%, more than half are in the South, according to USA TODAY’s analysis.
Aleszu Bajak is on Twitter at @aleszubajak or can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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