US Breaks COVID-19 Hospitalization Record Including 4,462 Children, Unvaccinated Most at Risk
The US broke its own earlier records in hospitalizations, as well as infections of COVID-19 on Tuesday, marking a considerable spike for those who are unvaccinated, including children aged 4 and younger who are not yet eligible to receive a vaccine.
The new omicron variant of the global Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic is responsible for a spike in infections, although symptoms - for those who have been vaccinated - are not as severe overall. Transmissibility, however, is significantly higher than the previous delta variant. Health officials cite poor protocols, unwilling 'antivax' citizens, and the US Food and Drug Administration “dragging their feet” as being responsible for the recent surge.
For comparison, the biggest spike in January 2021 was 142,273 hospitalized. That number was broken Tuesday with 145,982 hospitalized.
The biggest spike in January 2021 for infections was 313,829 reported cases, with a 7-day average of 246,287; however, on January 11, 2022, the total reported cases were 449,310 with a 7-day average of 761,081.
On Monday, states including Colorado, Oregon, Louisiana, Maryland, and Virginia declared public health emergencies or crisis standards of care, meaning, “when crisis conditions exist, the goal is to ‘gracefully degrade’ services to the minimum degree to meet the demands, maintaining the maximum patient and provider safety.”
In California, 38% of hospitals are in crisis, and 43% expect a crisis this week.
In the US, continuing reports reveal hospital beds filling up, resulting in a severely taxed hospital staff. Many nurses and other medical employees diagnosed with COVID-19 are nonetheless expected to work.
“Our systems and personnel are under extreme strain and I’m not sure how long we can sustain it,” Russel Buhr, a pulmonary and critical care physician at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center told the Washington Post in an email.
The sharp rise in case numbers has shown up primarily among the unvaccinated.
US President Joe Biden delivered remarks on what he has been criticized for calling a “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” saying, “Be concerned about omicron, but don’t be alarmed. But if you’re unvaccinated, you have some reason to be alarmed.”
The president voiced his concern that unvaccinated patients can experience severe illness or “needlessly” die.
Dr. Mohammad Sobhanie, an infectious disease physician at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, has warned that a combination of the omicron variant being more transmissible and lax Covid safety protocols are responsible for the recent surges.
Forty percent of the country remains unvaccinated and only 36% have received a booster dose, according to Dr. Faheem Younus, chief of Infectious Diseases at the University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky reported - during the ongoing surge of the delta variant - that unvaccinated people are six times more likely to test positive, nine times more likely to be hospitalized, and 14 times more likely to die from COVID-related complications.
“More than 75% of all hospitalized Covid-positive patients in the University of Maryland Medical System’s 12 hospitals are unvaccinated,” said Younus. “A majority of the remaining 25% have received 1 or 2 shots.”
S. Wesley Long, PhD researcher at Houston Methodist Hospital, reported that 43% of patients diagnosed with the delta variant strain of Covid-19 needed to be hospitalized with 5% of those dying. Whereas omicron sees percentages of 15% of patients needing hospitalization and 1% of people dying.
“Hospitals are filling with patients who have Covid-19 infections, most of whom are unvaccinated,” Dr. Greg Schrank MPH, hospital epidemiologist at the University of Maryland Medical Center, told Healthline.
“Not only does this create a challenge in caring for the large numbers of Covid-infected people, but due to limited beds and resources, this can impact the ability to deliver care to people with other medical needs.”
Pennsylvania reported that 90% of their hospitalized Covid-19 patients are unvaccinated, and according to data from the New York State Department of Health, fully-vaccinated New Yorkers have between a 90.2% and 95.7% lower chance of being hospitalized with Covid-19 compared to those who are unvaccinated.
The number of young children hospitalized for Covid-19 has reached peak levels since the beginning of the pandemic. The increase is among those aged 4 and younger who are not eligible for vaccination, according to Dr. Rahul Sharma, the emergency physician-in-chief at New York-Presbytarian Hospital.
Dr. Celine Gounder, a former advisory board member to the Biden administration, who spoke on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” said on Sunday, “The FDA under both the Trump and Biden administration has really dragged its feet on authorizing these rapid antigen for the purpose of assessing ‘are people contagious or not.’”
While the CDC has been criticized for recently changing its recommended isolation time periods from 10 days to five, the Biden administration also continues to face backlash from health experts and lawmakers over issues with testing availability. Biden at the White House on Monday relayed to reporters that he’s confident that the US is on the “right track” in its efforts to slow growing rates in the COVID-19 pandemic.
The US currently has the highest total number of daily cases of any country worldwide, according to reports, with 1.4 million infections as of Monday.