Aug 25, 2021 - Health

ICU beds are running out again

Reported percentage of ICU bed utilization by state
Data: HHS; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

More than 77% of America's ICU beds are being used right now as hospitals grapple with a crush of severely ill COVID patients, almost all of them unvaccinated.

Why it matters: Hospitals are once again overwhelmed, and this time, they're also facing staff shortages and burnout that only make matters worse, especially in the face of illness that was largely preventable.

Driving the news:

  • Arkansas and Alabama officials said this week their states were completely out of ICU beds.
  • In Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear said record COVID hospitalizations were forcing some hospitals to convert space to treat the influx of ICU patients.
  • In Florida, 94% of ICU beds are full. Nearly 50 hospitals reported critical staffing shortages, and almost 60 more said they anticipate critical staffing shortages by the end of the week.
  • North Texas hospitals may begin to prioritize vaccinated patients over the unvaccinated, Forbes reported last week.
  • Idaho, Nevada and Illinois are also nearing ICU capacity limits.

Between the lines: The shortage of ICU beds is a demand problem, not a supply problem, says Nick VinZant, a senior research analyst for insurance comparison company QuoteWizard, which released a new report yesterday measuring states' preparedness.

  • "It’s specifically because that’s where COVID is really hitting," VinZant said. "We have a health care system that is being pushed to the limits and staff that are really struggling to keep up."
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