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U.S. hospitals struggle under weight of COVID-19 cases

By Jake Thomas
U.S. hospitals struggle under weight of COVID-19 cases
A COVID-19 memorial on display at Missouri Baptist Hospital in Creve Coeur, Mo. The pinwheels honor patients who've contracted the virus. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 18 (UPI) -- West Virginia saw record COVID-19 hospitalizations Saturday a cases as the virus continued to disrupt life across the United States.

WCHS-TV in Charleston, W.Va., reported the state had 955 hospitalizations, an increase of 33 patients from Friday. The number of patients in intensive care rose to 292, an increase of 15 from Friday.

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The state is seeking to relieve pressure on hospitals by treating milder cases in pharmacies in 30 counties, the station reported. West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice encouraged residents to get the vaccine as cases rose to a record 29,744. But the governor wasn't optimistic.

"We're going to have a bunch more die, that's all there is to it," Justice said.

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Across the United States, the seven-day average of new cases as 148,816 Saturday, a slight decline from a day earlier, 150,366. According to a New York Times analysis of data, there was a 9% decrease in the daily average number Friday compared to two weeks prior.

There was a seven-day average of 1,992 deaths Friday, a 28% increase over 14 days.

In a summary of the data, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the U.S. is seeing an increase in cases in most of the country after experiencing a brief decline earlier in the month. The surge is being fueled by the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus and low vaccination rates in many communities.

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"COVID-19 vaccines offer strong protection against serious illness and death," the CDC said in the summary. "High vaccination coverage is proven to reduce the spread of the virus. The less a virus spreads, the less opportunity there is for new variants to emerge."

According to the most recent numbers, 54% of Americans are fully vaccinated, a 0.8% increase from the previous week.

In Gwinnett County, Georgia's second-most populated, is seeing patients who are "younger and sicker than ever before," Trent Lind, CEO of Piedmont Eastside Hospital, said in a letter to the Gwinnett Daily Post. The county has seen more than a ten-fold increase in COVID-19 cases since the July 4th weekend, he said, citing state data. He said the hospital does not have a single fully vaccinated person receiving critical care for COVID-19.

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Lind pointed to one silver lining: The county is seeing half as many cases as the previous peak in January.

"That is because the vaccine works," he said.

Indiana University Health has terminated 125 employees who didn't comply with the healthcare provider's vaccine mandate, WANE-TV in Fort Wayne, Ind., reported. The healthcare provider required employees to be fully vaccinated by Sept. 1, and the employees were terminated after a two-week unpaid suspension.

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The hospital system has about 36,000 employees, 97% of which are compliant, according to recent numbers. Most of the terminated employees worked part time and were expected to have minimal effect on staffing, the news outlet reported.

Two major health systems in Idaho's Treasure Valley area said they were suspending employee vaccine mandates because they were desperate for workers to handle the surge of unvaccinated patients, reports the Idaho Statesman. Earlier in the week, the state enacted a measure for the first time allowing hospitals to ration care as a result of the strains the virus is putting on Idaho's health care systems.

Elsewhere, two of California Gov. Gavin Newsom's children have tested positive for COVID-19, reports Politico. Neither Newsom, who is vaccinated, nor his wife have tested positive. The couple's four children are under 12 and are not eligible to receive the vaccine. The children who tested positive have mild symptoms and are quarantining.

Chelsea Manning, a former Army analyst best known for leaking classified military information, said on Friday that she had tested positive for COVID-19. Manning, in a statement, said she was grateful the vaccine she received kept the symptoms "very mild" and was quarantining.

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