As COVID-19 cases rise sharply, available hospital space declines

A surge in cases caused by those who ignored safety recommendations and regulations has created shortages of hospital beds. What will Christmas bring?
(AFP - Getty Imagages)

As expected, new cases of COVID-19 have cause rapid increases in Floyd County, Southwestern Virginia, and throughout the Old Dominion because of those who ignored warnings about traveling on Thanksgiving to visit friends, relatives, and loved ones.

Virginia’s new cases reported Thursday by the Virginia Department of Health topped 4,000 infections with 4,396 cases, including 325 in the Roanoke Valley, 65 in Montgomery County.

Floyd County’s four new cases in Tuesday report, along with eight on Monday, brought the total infections to 400. The county also added a death Monday, which brings the total to 17.

Hospitalizations and deaths continue to rise, especially among younger infectees considered more resistant to the virus.

Roanoke County reported 181 new cases, Roanoke City had 98 and Salem 45. Combined, they are closing in on 10,000 total cases with 139 deaths from the pandemic.

Montgomery County has 53 cases, bringing its total to 4,260. Radford added 12, with a total of 2,278, Total deaths stood at 28 for both.

Nationwide, infections stand at 15.6 million cases and 291,496 deaths. More than 200,00 cases are reported each day. The worldwide count is 68.7 million cases and 1,566,533 deaths.

A new study released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services finds hospitals nationwide report less than 15 percent of available beds remain for treatment of COVID-19 patients and more than a third of Americans live in areas where hospitals are running “critically short” of intensive care beds.

“There’s only so much our frontline care can offer, particularly when you get to these really rural counties which are being hit hard by the pandemic right now,” Beth Blauer, director of the Centers for Civic Impact at Johns Hopkins University tells The New York Times. “This disease progresses very quickly and can get very ugly very fast. When you don’t have that capacity, that means people will die.”

Medical experts point to the large numbers of Americans who continue to ignore recommendations, and regulations in many cases, to wear masks and take other safety precautions.

“A lot of healthcare workers have been concerned about this, about the lack of compliance, and now we’re seeing it play out, and you just sort of feel resigned,” says University of California San Diego Medical Center associated chief medical officer, Dr. Chris Longhurst. “You’ve got to go to work every day and help the people who need hospital care, but we wish that it had stopped upstream.”

It’s worse for rural areas.

“If you’re living in a place where there’s no I.C.U. bed for 100 miles, you have to be incredibly careful about the social interaction that you allow the community to take,” says Blauer.

With Christmas coming, those same medical experts fear more will travel and ignore safety recommendations and the increase we are seeing from Thanksgiving will multiply and cripple the ability to treat those who need help.