COVID-19 spikes in some states reignite hospital capacity worries

Dive Brief:

  • Once again sparking concerns over U.S. hospital capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic, Banner Health said late last week it may need to activate its surge plan as hospitalizations are “rapidly increasing,” the ICU is “very busy” and ventilator usage has seen a sharp incline.
  • More than a dozen states, including Arizona, are seeing increases in number of cases, according to Johns Hopkins data, as the U.S. moves forward with opening the economy and easing restrictions meant to tamp down spread of the novel coronavirus.
  • And the World Health Organization warned Monday that COVID-19 continues to be a substantial threat, with Sunday showing the largest number of cases in a single day worldwide so far at 136,000.

Dive Insight:

As the novel coronavirus appeared in the United States, a major concern was the ability for the nation’s health system to respond to surges. Hospital capacity varies across the country, not always correlating to population, and necessary equipment like ventilators are not always available in the quantity needed to respond to COVID-19 spikes.

And even in areas that are not as hard hit, personal protective equipment for providers has been lacking at best.

For these reasons, most U.S. hospitals put elective procedures on hold in late March and April. They began restarting the services last month. But the Arizona Department of Health Services warned the state’s hospitals Sunday to reduce or suspend elective surgeries to ensure bed capacity.

As other countries have succeeded in reducing spread of the virus, they have used robust contact tracing efforts the U.S. does not currently have in place. Some attempts exist, including via software from Apple and Google, but privacy concerns and lack of public buy-in have stunted efforts.

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a news conference Monday countries should continue strict monitoring and contact tracing.

“More than six months into this pandemic, this is not the time for any country to take its foot off the pedal,” he said. “This is the time for countries to continue to work hard, on the basis of science, solutions and solidarity.”

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