Nov 18, 2020 - Health

U.S. hospitals are short staffed amid rise of coronavirus cases

Illustration of sign saying no hospitals
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

More than one in five U.S. hospitals don't have enough workers right now as hospitals fill up with coronavirus patients, especially in the Midwest, The Atlantic reports.

Why it matters: Even though doctors have gotten better at treating the virus, all that progress doesn't matter if there's no one to deliver care to a patient.

What's happening: The U.S. is setting new coronavirus hospitalization records, with 73,000 patients hospitalized this week.

  • During the week of Nov. 4 to Nov. 11, 19% of American hospitals faced a staffing shortage. This week, 22% of hospitals said they expect a shortage, according to data provided to The Atlantic by the Department of Health and Human Services.
  • In some states, the situation is worse: More than 35% of hospitals in Arkansas, Missouri, North Dakota, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Virginia, and Wisconsin are anticipating a staffing shortage this week.

Between the lines: The shortages are due to staff members getting sick or exposed to the virus, thus having to quarantine, and to more patients arriving at the hospital seeking care.

What we're watching: The COVID Tracking Project, which is a project of The Atlantic, has found that an increase in cases translates into an increase in hospitalizations about 12 days later.

  • That means that hospitals' problems are about to get a lot worse. Over the last 12 days, the seven-day average of new cases has increased from less than 90,000 a day to 150,000 a day.
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