Virus surge breaks hospital records amid rising toll on kids

Kentucky and Texas have joined a growing list of states that have surpassed their record for hospitalized coronavirus patients.

Posted: Aug 26, 2021 5:00 PM
Updated: Aug 27, 2021 9:08 AM

Kentucky and Texas joined a growing list of states that are seeing record numbers of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in a surge that is overwhelming doctors and nurses and afflicting more children.

Intensive care units around the nation are packed with patients extremely ill with the coronavirus — even in places where hospitalizations have not yet reached earlier peaks.

The ICU units at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Georgia typically have room for 38 patients, and doctors and nurses may have only two or three people who are very sick, said Dr. Jyotir Mehta, medical director of the ICU. On Wednesday, the ICU had 50 COVID-19 patients alone, roughly half of them relying on ventilators to breathe.

“I don’t think we have experienced this much critical illness in folks, so many people sick at the same time,” Mehta said.

He said talking to family members is difficult. “They are grasping for every hope and you’re trying to tell them, ’Look, it’s bad,'” he said. “You have to tell them that your loved one is not going to make it.”

In New Mexico, top health officials warned Wednesday that the state is about a week away from rationing health care. The number of coronavirus patients needing care at hospitals jumped more than 20% in a day.

“We’re going to have to choose who gets care and who doesn’t get care,” state Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. David Scrase warned. “And we don’t want to get to that point.”

In Idaho, state leaders called on residents to volunteer to help keep medical facilities operating.

Texas and Kentucky on Wednesday reported more COVID-19 patients in their hospitals than at any other time since the pandemic began, 14,255 and 2,074, respectively. The Texas record is based on U.S. Department of Health and Human Services data.

At least six other states — Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Hawaii, Mississippi and Oregon — have already broken their hospitalization records.

In Texas, nearly 47% of the population is fully vaccinated — below the national average of almost 52% — and Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has banned mask and vaccine mandates. Many counties and school districts have defied his mask ban.

In Kentucky, just under 48% of the population is fully vaccinated, and public health officials have blamed the lag in part for the state's surge. Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear's COVID-19 restrictions expired in June, and the GOP-controlled legislature has blocked him from issuing new mask requirements or capacity limits.

Nationwide, COVID-19 deaths are running at more than 1,100 a day, the highest level since mid-March, and new cases per day are averaging over 152,000, turning the clock back to the end of January. As of early this week, the number of people in the hospital with the coronavirus was around 85,000, a level not seen since early February.

The surge is largely fueled by the highly contagious delta variant among people who are unvaccinated. In areas where vaccination rates are particularly low, doctors have pleaded with their communities to get inoculated to spare overburdened hospitals.

They have also sounded the alarm about the growing toll of the variant on children and young adults.

Children now make up 36% of Tennessee’s reported COVID-19 cases, marking yet another sobering milestone in the state’s battle against the virus, Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey said Wednesday. She said the state had 14,000 pediatric cases in the last seven days — a 57% increase over the previous week.

In South Carolina, students will again be required to wear masks on school buses starting Monday as COVID-19 cases among children and students rise rapidly.

Nearly 30% of new cases in South Carolina in the past two weeks have been in people 20 and under. During the same time in 2020, about 17% of cases were in children and teens, according to state officials.

Anderson Lopez Castillo, a nurse who cares for seriously ill COVID-19 patients at UAB Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama, said treating people as young as 16 in critical care has become an additional strain on top of a nearly yearlong ordeal that left him questioning his choice of a profession.

“Initially we saw a lot of older people getting it. It was like, ‘OK, we can tackle this. Even if it is stressful, even if it’s a dangerous virus, it’ll probably not be that bad on us as nurses taking care of these older patients,’” he said.

Castillo, 24, said he now sees the virus making young people very sick, and it makes him and other young nurses think of their own mortality.

“There’s definitely a little subconscious thought in the back of all of our heads going, ‘You know, that could be us,'’’ he said.

___

This story has been corrected to reflect that nearly 47% of Texas' population is fully vaccinated, below the national average.

___

Associated Press reporters around the country contributed to this report.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 512632

Reported Deaths: 10262
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34853555
DeSoto33162432
Hinds32556641
Jackson24830389
Rankin22442402
Lee16238242
Madison14874283
Jones14086247
Forrest13741259
Lauderdale12249324
Lowndes11286193
Lamar10644140
Pearl River9707244
Lafayette8827143
Hancock7835132
Washington7550169
Oktibbeha7204138
Monroe6989179
Pontotoc6970109
Warren6849178
Panola6746134
Neshoba6726210
Marshall6653141
Bolivar6440151
Union633897
Pike5924156
Alcorn5862107
Lincoln5525136
George510180
Prentiss500884
Tippah490282
Itawamba4829107
Scott477499
Adams4766125
Tate4748116
Leflore4723144
Copiah455895
Yazoo455591
Simpson4543117
Wayne442772
Covington432895
Sunflower4299106
Marion4265112
Coahoma4227109
Leake413790
Newton395581
Tishomingo381793
Grenada3775109
Stone365666
Jasper340166
Attala337790
Winston317792
Chickasaw313367
Clay311878
Clarke301195
Calhoun284449
Holmes271289
Smith268952
Yalobusha243747
Tallahatchie231453
Greene224749
Walthall221366
Lawrence217840
Perry213356
Amite209557
Webster205148
Noxubee188642
Montgomery181557
Carroll174441
Jefferson Davis173643
Tunica163239
Benton152639
Kemper144941
Choctaw136527
Claiborne134238
Humphreys131139
Franklin124929
Quitman107528
Wilkinson105939
Jefferson96834
Sharkey65121
Issaquena1957
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 845108

Reported Deaths: 16115
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1161242006
Mobile741961379
Madison53291732
Shelby38328368
Baldwin38074589
Tuscaloosa36017641
Montgomery34483781
Lee25557263
Calhoun22585518
Morgan22454406
Etowah20016517
Marshall18781316
Houston17729425
St. Clair16880358
Limestone16138218
Cullman16050303
Elmore15904294
Lauderdale14984306
Talladega14191299
DeKalb12971269
Walker12029380
Blount10715192
Autauga10517157
Jackson10161194
Coffee9415192
Colbert9341208
Dale9018191
Tallapoosa7255201
Russell707865
Chilton7018170
Escambia6955143
Covington6933195
Franklin6342108
Chambers5784142
Marion5403130
Dallas5285209
Pike5118109
Clarke484986
Lawrence4826129
Winston4780110
Geneva4642136
Bibb434094
Barbour369480
Butler3434100
Marengo342393
Monroe337066
Randolph334367
Pickens333188
Fayette330085
Henry320666
Hale318389
Cherokee317763
Crenshaw260477
Washington257052
Cleburne254460
Lamar251453
Clay250869
Macon244764
Conecuh192862
Coosa185047
Lowndes178168
Wilcox177438
Bullock152645
Perry141840
Sumter139241
Greene130245
Choctaw93228
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