NEW YORK, Aug. 8 (Xinhua) -- Health systems in the United States, especially those in the South where the vaccination rates remain comparatively low, are trying to deal with hiking hospitalizations, as the country's daily COVID-19 cases topped 100,000 on Friday, hitting a six-month high since February.
Southern states like Florida, Georgia and Louisiana account for almost 40 percent of all hospitalizations in the country, straining their health care systems as the Delta variant runs rampant through the unvaccinated, reported USA Today earlier this week.
In Florida, where nearly 2,500 of the 12,000-plus patients hospitalized with COVID-19 are in intensive care units, elective surgeries are getting suspended and beds are being placed in conference rooms, an auditorium and a cafeteria, it said.
In Georgia, at least 25 medical centers have had to turn people away for lack of space as the number of hospitalizations for COVID-19 has risen to 2,600 statewide. There were about 2,350 COVID-19 patients in Louisiana hospitals as of Thursday, and one of them had to postpone an organ transplant, it added.
According to the figures updated on The New York Times website, the country's new daily COVID-19 cases rose to 108,513 on Saturday, while the 14-day change was a 111 percent increase. The coronavirus deaths were 506 on Saturday, while the 14-day change was an 89 percent rise.
Florida, the southeasternmost U.S. state, is experiencing its most devastating COVID-19 surge yet, fueled by the Delta variant. Its hospitals are being stretched to the brink once again, with mounting wait times and limited oxygen.
"Intensive care units in Florida are filling up, and final moments with loved ones, separated by face shields and glass barriers, have become a resurgent reality," reported the financial news website Business Insider on Sunday.
An explosion in the virus' highly-transmissible Delta variant has mired the state in its most vicious fight with the disease in recent weeks -- on Saturday, nearly 24,000 new COVID-19 cases were reported in the Sunshine State, in comparison with just 1,250 new infections on June 1.
"Florida has become the epicenter of a new wave of infections in the United States, and its vaccination rate is far short of states like Connecticut and New York," said the report.
Florida's COVID-19 hospitalizations recently jumped 13 percent above the state's previous peak on July 23, 2020, according to a survey by the Florida Hospital Association.
About half of adults in Florida, or 50.8 percent, are fully vaccinated, according to data from the Johns Hopkins University (JHU). The Delta variant is preying upon the roughly the other half of adults in the state who have not been vaccinated.
While the country is struggling to fend off the Delta variant, the most contagious strain of coronavirus yet, COVID-19 hospitalizations are reaching all-time highs in parts of the U.S. South, with some patients unable to get the care they would normally receive, CNN reported on Sunday.
At the United Memorial Medical Center, Houston, Texas, "we have no beds. The emergency department is full of patients just waiting to be able to get into the hospital," Chief of Staff Joseph Varon was quoted as saying Sunday morning. "Over the last 12 hours, we have lost more patients than ... in the last five to six weeks."
"Something very scary now is happening in the Southern United States. We are seeing this massive surge of hospitalizations of young people that we've never seen before in hospitals across the South," Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, was quoted as saying.
"It's many, many young people, including, I'm sorry to say, many children's hospital admissions. And for the first time that I can remember, we're starting to see pediatric intensive care units get overwhelmed, which we never really saw before," he added.
PRESSURE ON HOSPITALS
Existing staff shortages across the country, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, have caused widespread burnout among health workers, even forcing some to walk off the job, The Washington Post quoted health specialists and hospital officials as saying earlier this week.
The coronavirus going for more than 18 months, with the resurgence of more severe mutations, has resulted in a "totally exhausted workforce," and "the mental toll of pandemic and burnout is real and it is pervasive across the country," Purvi Parikh, an immunologist with the national advocacy group Physicians for Patient Protection, told the newspaper.
For example, medical people literally walked off the job in Arkansas, while local officials sounded the alarm of a hospitalization crisis in the southern state as the number of COVID-19 patients rises, fueled by the highly contagious Delta variant that is ripping through the state.
"The hospital is full. COVID-19 numbers increase every day. We are staffing inpatients in the ER and recovery room. No space for transfers. Running out of caregivers. Support health care workers. Mask up. Get vaxxed," twittered Cam Patterson, chancellor of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) in Little Rock last week.
BRACE FOR MORE
The United States is now averaging more than 100,000 new COVID-19 cases every day, the highest in almost six months, according to the JHU data. Because it can take days or weeks for some COVID-19 cases to lead to hospitalizations or deaths, doctors are bracing for the serious scenarios in 2020, according to local media reports.
U.S. President Joe Biden is pushing harder on vaccines and masks as COVID-19 cases are surging across the country due to the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant. Scientists say the Delta variant is as contagious as chicken pox, with each infected person potentially infecting eight or nine other people.
The Delta variant accounts for an estimated 93.4 percent of all new pandemic cases in the United States during the last two weeks of July, according to figures published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Wednesday.
According to the JHU data, America kept beating all other countries with over 616,000 coronavirus deaths and more than 35 million infections as of Sunday afternoon.