Hospitals preparing for yet another overwhelming patient population

Covid Surge
Posted at 2:12 PM, Sep 08, 2021

CHICAGO, Ill. — At Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, the race to vaccinate all its medical staff is underway.

“We are at about 92%, which is very close, and our original deadline was October 1,” said Lisa Weichman Harries, director of operations for employee and corporate health services at Rush University Medical Center.

At least 13 states or cities, including Colorado, Illinois, and Maryland are requiring COVID-19 vaccines for their health care workers, another layer of protection ahead of a projected autumn surge.

“We're very much following what we have in the past, which is we're preparing for the worst. We're always making sure that we're ready for whatever, you know, whatever comes our way,” said Dr. Paul Casey, chief medical officer at Rush University Medical Center.

Already in the grips of a fourth wave, nearly 160,000 new COVID-19 cases are being reported on average in the U.S. each day.

Forecasters say the latest modeling projects another 110,000 deaths from the virus by December 1.

“It's really driven by delta and then the fact that people have basically decided the epidemic is over in terms of their daily behavior,” said Dr. Chris Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

Dr. Murray says some states may be getting a reprieve. According to the latest modeling from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, several of the hardest-hit states may have reached their peak caseloads.

“Missouri has peaked, Arkansas has peaked, Louisiana has peaked, Mississippi has peaked, Florida has peaked, Nevada has peaked. And so, those states are at the top,” said Murray. “It may be spending a lot of time at the top of that peak, but they've stopped growing and some of them have started to come down.”

But he says hospitalizations are likely to continue rising in other parts of the country, with a peak of about 125,000 people with COVID-19 in the hospital by the second or third week of September.

“Those regions that are seeing a really high level of hospitalizations, especially down south, some areas out west as well. So, we're keeping certainly a close eye on that,” said Casey.

Experts say the big difference going into the season of spread this year is the vaccine, with nearly 53% of the U.S. population having been fully vaccinated.

“Because vaccination does work, the peak of deaths is going to be much smaller than that peak we got last year in the middle of the winter when we had almost 3,500 deaths on average per day,” said Murray.

Still, hospital administrators like Casey say utilizing all the analytics and data available will help keep them ahead of the surge as much as possible.

“Knowing where cases are, it's really an hour-to-hour type exercise that we have to know our in-house capacity, what's happening around the state, what's happening in the city, what's happening, other hospitals.”