(CNN)As experts race to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 by encouraging vaccinations and mask wearing, hospital systems in a handful of states are now straining to keep up with the surge.
Eight states, many of which have lagged the national average for vaccinations, have Covid-19 patients that account for at least 15% of their overall hospitalizations: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada and Texas, according to a CNN analysis of data from the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Of all Covid-19 hospitalizations, these eight states’ combined totals make up approximately 51% of patients, though the states account for only around 24% of the nation’s population, according to Census data.
“In the past week, Florida has had more Covid cases than all 30 states with the lowest case rates combined. And Florida and Texas alone have accounted for nearly 40% of new hospitalizations across the country,” White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said Thursday during a White House briefing.
The percentages of Covid-19 patients in ICUs are even worse, with Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi approaching half of ICU beds in use for such patients, HHS data from Thursday show.
Louisiana and Mississippi each announced on Thursday their highest number of Covid-19 hospitalizations since the start of the pandemic.
Mississippi on Friday reported 5,023 new cases, another daily record, the state Department of Health said. Of the new cases, 98% of those are in unvaccinated people, the state’s dashboard shows.
In Florida, Brevard County officials issued an urgent plea this week for residents to try to avoid using ambulance services for nonemergency calls or going to hospitals for Covid-19 tests.
First responders and departments are feeling the effects of the Delta coronavirus variant surge throughout the country.
In Memphis, Tennessee, emergency departments are overworked due to the pandemic, with August having the potential to be the busiest month in the history of the city’s fire department, Fire Chief Gina Sweat said.
And Chief Medical Officer Dr. Geoff Lifferth at Sumner Regional Medical Center in Gallatin, Tennessee, said the hospital had no more open beds. “As an ER doc and a healthcare administrator, this past week has been one of the most exhausting and disheartening of my career,” he said in an emotional Facebook post.
In Wisconsin, Julie Willems Van Dijk, deputy secretary in the state’s Health Department, warned Thursday that the state could experience a crisis similar to the one happening now in Florida.
“We find ourselves in a situation that we hoped was in the past — we risk our hospital systems being overwhelmed, again, just as they were last November.”
FDA authorizes 3rd dose to immunocompromised
Health officials continue to stress that widespread vaccinations are needed to temper the effects of the surge in the weeks ahead.
“Of the nearly 1,500 now in a hospital for Covid-19, more than 1,300 are unvaccinated,” the Mississippi Department of Health said on Thursday.
More than 99.99% of people who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 have not had a breakthrough case resulting in hospitalization or death, according to a CNN analysis of CDC data. Of the more than 164 million people in the US fully vaccinated as of August 2, fewer than 0.001% of those individuals — 1,507 people — died from Covid-19.
About three-quarters of all reported breakthrough cases were among seniors age 65 or older. Of the people who died, 1 in 5 passed away from something other than Covid-19, even though they had a breakthrough case of the virus, according to the CDC.
With the efficacy of vaccines demonstrated, the FDA on Thursday authorized an additional third dose to be administered to people with compromised immune systems.
Around 59.2% of all Americans have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 50.4% are fully vaccinated as of Thursday, according to the CDC.
Mask mandate push and pull continues
With the school year getting underway, the debate over mask mandates among parents, educators and political leadership continues nationwide, as children under age 12 are not yet eligible for Covid-19 vaccines.
Over the past few days, heated scenes have played out in Georgia and Tennessee as local school boards and officials considered mask mandates for staff and students, only to be met with loud opposition from some parents.
In suburban Atlanta, 822 cases have been reported this week in the Cobb County School District. Cobb County does not mandate masks but does “strongly encourage” them for students and staff, according to the district’s public health guidelines posted on its website.
In Florida, three teachers and a teaching assistant in Broward County died from Covid-19-related complications this week, the teachers union president, Anna Fusco, told CNN. The educators died in a roughly 24-hour span between Monday night and Wednesday morning, she said.
Broward County School Board Chair Rosalind Osgood responded Friday on CNN to a question about reports that three of the educators were unvaccinated.
“I was also told they were unvaccinated,” she said.
The district is using money to encourage staff members to get vaccinated.
Broward County has had 138 employees test positive for Covid-19 since August 1, according to the system’s Covid dashboard, which was updated on Thursday.
In Texas, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins referenced his temporary restraining order against the governor’s mask ban at a news conference Friday morning.
“Our hospitals and our people desperately need some time to get bed capacity and doctor capacity up so their hospitals won’t be overrun,” he said.
“In Dallas we have zero ICU beds left for children. That means if your child’s in a car wreck, if your child has a congenital heart defect or something and needs an ICU bed, or more likely if they have Covid and need an ICU bed, we don’t have one. Your child will wait for another child to die.”
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