Will Another COVID-19 Spike Crush Our Healthcare System?
Will there be yet another coronavirus spike following holiday season gatherings?
Many health experts predict exactly that. If so, what does that mean for hospitals and doctor’s offices?
We can only hope Dr. Brad Spellberg is wrong. He’s the chief medical officer at the Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Medical Center. Here’s his prediction.
“This is about the total collapse of the healthcare system if we have another spike,” he said. “And we, in the hospital, cannot stop that. We can only react to it.
“It is the public that has the power to put a stop to the spread of this virus by obeying the public health guidance that (has) been put out.”
Frontline Workers Under Siege
Overwhelmed healthcare facilities are not only a problem for those needing to be hospitalized due to the virus.
It’s a huge issue for those working in these places. They are exposed to the coronavirus daily. And they fear exposing their own families.
There are also mental health issues to consider. As the daily stress continues, frontline workers suffer from anxiety, depression and loneliness.
A recent survey of 1,119 healthcare workers showed that 93 percent were experiencing stress. Eighty-six percent reported anxiety and 77 percent felt frustration. Seventy-six percent were exhausted and 75 percent overwhelmed.
Hospital Beds at a Premium
The healthcare facility battle is also a big problem for those needing medical attention for other issues. Including injuries from car accidents.
As well as those who suffer heart attacks or strokes. And those who need operations for other issues.
There just aren’t enough hospital beds, nurses and physicians to take care of everyone.
Earlier this month marked the 35th straight day of at least 100,000 hospitalizations in the U.S. due to the virus.
Not Enough Oxygen for Patients
In one Southern California hospital, they are improvising. They’ve converted administrative offices and a break room into coronavirus treatment areas.
Internal oxygen delivery systems are overburdened in some hospitals. Patients with respiratory issues due to the virus are in danger of not receiving oxygen they need.
While the average ICU patient might require two to six liters of oxygen per minute, coronavirus patients sometimes need 40 liters per minute.
Southern California hospital administrators have called in design and construction experts from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. They are upgrading oxygen delivery systems.
Will Deadly December Be Surpassed?
The number of new coronavirus cases and deaths is staggering. As of January 5, the U.S. has had more than 21 million cases. And over 356,000 deaths.
There is a new case in America nearly every second. And a new death every minute.
On a nearly daily basis, numerous states report new records for hospitalizations.
December was the deadliest month in the U.S. with 77,000 people losing their lives to COVID-19. With TSA agents screening more than 1 million people over the recent holidays, some fear January could be worse.
New Variants Spark Fear
Almost certain to heighten the problem for hospitals and healthcare workers are new coronavirus variants.
Discovered recently in England, one is now moving around the U.S. Experts say it is even more contagious than what we’ve been dealing with.
CDC officials are saying yet another strain that began in South Africa could be here as well.
Dr. Henry Walke is the CDC’s incident manager. He says, “Because the variants spread more rapidly, they could lead to more cases and put even more strain on our already heavily burdened healthcare systems.”
Can Vaccines Stop New Strains?
Medical experts are not surprised by new variants in the virus. Viruses mutate. That’s what they do.
The big question on many minds is this. Will the approved vaccines be as effective against new variants as they’ve been in tests against the original virus?
So far, healthcare officials see no reason why not. Time will tell.
They also say immunity gained from infection by the original virus should provide protection against exposure to variants.
Vaccine Administration Lagging
Speaking of vaccines, many people are disappointed at how slowly the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccinations are being administered.
The White House’s goal was to have 20 million people vaccinated by now. But as of January 5, fewer than 5 million people had been vaccinated.
Among those voicing frustration was Utah Senator Mitt Romney. He blames the federal government for not developing vaccination plans for the states.
He added that relying on already overwhelmed hospitals and pharmacies to administer vaccines was “unrealistic.”
Fauci Wants 1 Million a Day
Dr. Anthony Fauci says he expects the number of vaccinations to increase dramatically.
He said there is no reason why 1 million people per day can’t be immunized against the virus. Some of the first people to be vaccinated several weeks ago have already received both doses.
Dr. Ashish Jha is dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health. Here’s what he says.
“Vaccines sitting on shelves are doing nothing while thousands of Americans are dying. This is a travesty.
“This is the most ridiculous example of an incredible ability of our country to be innovative in producing the vaccine and yet inability of our government to help get it to people.”
Right now, it’s all about survival. For patients, healthcare facilities and frontline workers. Let’s all do our best to stay safe and help ease the pressure.