Covid Hospitalizations Plateau in Some Parts of the U.S., While a Crisis Remains in Others – The New York Times

Fewer people in the United States are being admitted to hospitals with the coronavirus than a week ago, suggesting that the record-breaking surge in hospitalizations driven by the Omicron variant could soon decline, following recent case trends. But the country remains far from the end of the Omicron wave, and in many areas it could be weeks before the strain on hospitals subsides.

New Covid hospital admissions

10,000

20,000

30,000 daily admissions

Dec. 1, 2021

Jan. 19, 2022

Covid hospitalizations

50,000

100,000

150,000 hospitalized

Dec. 1, 2021

Jan. 19, 2022

Covid patients in I.C.U.s

10,000

20,000

30,000 in intensive care

Dec. 1, 2021

Jan. 19, 2022

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. All figures are seven-day averages.

The number of people hospitalized with the virus nationwide and those sick enough to require intensive care remain at or near record levels. In much of the West, in parts of the Midwest and in more rural areas of the country, where Omicron surges have hit later, cases and hospitalizations are still growing significantly.

Indeed, most of the decrease in new hospital admissions has so far been in areas that experienced Omicron outbreaks earliest. Omicron reached many metropolitan areas in the eastern half of the country before it became the dominant variant nationwide, and hospitalizations jumped quickly in the Northeast and the South before the new year. Now, hospitalizations are beginning to level off in the Northeast in particular.

New Covid hospital admissions

Covid hospitalizations

Covid patients in I.C.U.s

10 new admissions per 100,000 people

60 hospitalized per 100,000 people

10 in intensive care per 100,000 people

The Midwest and Northeast were battling a Delta surge in the weeks before Omicron became dominant.

Dec. 1, 2021

Jan. 1, 2022

Jan. 19, 2022

Dec. 1, 2021

Jan. 1, 2022

Jan. 19, 2022

Dec. 1, 2021

Jan. 1, 2022

Jan. 19, 2022

New Covid hospital admissions

Covid hospitalizations

Covid patients in I.C.U.s

10 new admissions per 100,000 people

60 hospitalized per 100,000 people

10 in intensive care per 100,000 people

The Midwest and Northeast were battling a Delta surge in the weeks before Omicron became dominant.

Dec. 1,

2021

Jan. 1,

2022

Jan. 19,

2022

Dec. 1,

2021

Jan. 1,

2022

Jan. 19,

2022

Dec. 1,

2021

Jan. 1,

2022

Jan. 19,

2022

New Covid hospital admissions

Covid hospitalizations

Covid patients in I.C.U.s

10 new admissions per 100,000 people

60 hospitalized per 100,000 people

10 in intensive care per 100,000 people

The Midwest and Northeast were battling a Delta surge in the weeks before Omicron became dominant.

Dec. 1,

2021

Jan. 1,

2022

Jan. 19,

2022

Dec. 1,

2021

Jan. 1,

2022

Jan. 19,

2022

Dec. 1,

2021

Jan. 1,

2022

Jan. 19,

2022

New Covid

hospital admissions

Covid hospitalizations

Covid patients

in I.C.U.s

10 new admissions

per 100,000 people

60 hospitalized

per 100,000 people

10 in intensive care

per 100,000 people

The Midwest and Northeast were battling a Delta surge in the weeks before Omicron became dominant.

Dec. 1,

2021

Jan. 1,

2022

Jan. 19,

2022

Dec. 1,

2021

Jan. 1,

2022

Jan. 19,

2022

Dec. 1,

2021

Jan. 1,

2022

Jan. 19,

2022

New Covid

hospital

admissions

Covid

hospitalizations

Covid patients

in I.C.U.s

10 new admissions

per 100,000 people

60 hospitalized

per 100,000 people

10 in intensive care

per 100,000 people

Dec. 1,

2021

Jan. 19,

2022

Dec. 1,

2021

Jan. 19,

2022

Dec. 1,

2021

Jan. 19,

2022

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services All figures are seven day averages.

Hospitalizations in the Midwest are also plateauing, but the region still has high numbers of people in intensive care. That is in part because Midwestern hospitals were already stretched thin by the Delta variant surge when Omicron arrived in early December.

In Southern states, hospitalizations and I.C.U. rates were among the lowest in the country just before Omicron, but they have sharply risen with the latest wave.

The percentage of hospitalized patients requiring I.C.U. beds is still significantly lower than that during previous waves, in part because Omicron seems to be less severe overall than earlier variants. Vaccinated people, and especially people who have received a booster shot, are much less likely to be hospitalized or need intensive care.

Covid patients in I.C.U.s

10,000

20,000

30,000

Jan. 1, 2021

Jan. 19, 2022

Share of hospitalized Covid patients in I.C.U.s

10

20

30%

Jan. 1, 2021

Jan. 19, 2022

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services All figures are seven day averages.

The hospitalization numbers also include people who test positive for the virus after coming to the hospital for other ailments, or so-called incidental cases. Still, experts have warned that even mild cases of the virus can be worrisome if patients have other health conditions. And the care required for these patients, as well as keeping vulnerable people at the hospital isolated from Covid patients, put further strain on doctors and nurses.

With health care workers out sick with Omicron themselves and the virus compounding pre-existing staff shortages, hospitals have less capacity to care for patients than before. And fewer staffed beds available means a smaller number of Covid patients could overwhelm a hospital.

The number of staffed hospital and I.C.U. beds available has steadily been declining since November 2020, when the data was first reliably tracked nationally. There are now 4 percent fewer staffed hospital beds available and 7 percent fewer staffed I.C.U. beds.

Change in staffed hospital beds

Change in staffed I.C.U. beds

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Number of staffed beds compared with the average over the first three weeks of November 2020.

Some states have had bigger declines. Thirteen states — Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Wisconsin — have lost more than 10 percent of their staffed hospital and I.C.U. beds. A few states — New Jersey, New Mexico, Florida, Vermont — and Puerto Rico have increased their I.C.U. and hospital capacity.

Stretched to the limit by wave after wave of the virus, health care workers have been quitting at record rates. About 3 percent of health care workers quit their jobs in November, a number not seen since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began calculating the data in 2000, as workers leave their positions for better pay, early retirement or to transition to another industry.

The number of open job postings for nurses in the United States is nearing almost double what it was before the pandemic, according to data from the Indeed Hiring Lab.

Change in number of nursing job postings

-25

25

50

75% increase

Feb. 1, 2020

Jan. 14, 2022

Health care workers quits rate by month

1

2

3%

Jan. 2015

Nov. 2021

Sources: Indeed Hiring Lab; Bureau of Labor Statistics. The quits rate is seasonally adjusted.

All of this means the strain on many local hospitals is far from over. Covid hospitalizations remain higher in every state than they were two weeks ago, and 12 states had more people hospitalized this week than they did at last winter’s peak.

Still, the drop in new hospital admissions in parts of the country with the earliest Omicron outbreaks is a welcome sign for hospitals there — and for others currently pushed to the brink by the extremely transmissible variant.

Tracking the Coronavirus

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Covid Hospitalizations Plateau in Some Parts of the U.S., While a Crisis Remains in Others – The New York Times

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