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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Some states are seeing dangerous levels of coronavirus hospitalizations, with hospitals warning that they could soon become overwhelmed if no action is taken to slow the spread.

Why it matters: Patients can only receive good care if there's enough care to go around — which is one reason why the death rate was so much higher in the spring, some experts say.

Driving the news: The Utah Hospital Association has warned that the state's situation is becoming so dire that hospitals are expecting to begin rationing care within a week or two, per The Salt Lake Tribune.

  • El Paso has issued a new stay at home order in response to overwhelmed hospitals, and additional beds are being set up in the city's convention center.
  • On Saturday, North Dakota had only 22 available intensive care beds and 247 regular inpatient beds, the Grand Forks Herald reports.
  • Idaho Gov. Brad Little announced the return of some social distancing measures yesterday, per the Idaho Statesman. “Hospitals throughout the state are quickly filling up or are already full with COVID-19 patients and other patients, and way too many health care workers are out sick with COVID-19,” he said.

The big picture: The problem is particularly acute in rural parts of the Mountain West and the Midwest, where health care workers are scarce. When they're infected by the virus or forced to quarantine after exposure, it's hard to find replacements, Kaiser Health News reports.

  • For now, hospitals are continuing on with elective procedures, the Wall Street Journal reports. The suspension of such procedures in the spring led to heavy financial losses, health care worker layoffs and worsening health conditions among non-coronavirus patients.

Yes, but: Several Republican governors continue to resist statewide mask mandates, and it's unclear how far state and local governments will go in response to the surge of cases.

  • When cases surged earlier on, “our governments reacted,” Megan Ranney, an emergency medicine professor at Brown University, told the Washington Post. “We closed bars. We closed restaurants. We enforced mask mandates. And I’m not seeing a lot of that nationally right now.”

The bottom line: Pandemic fatigue, politicization of the virus and the upcoming holiday season all make it almost certain that the situation will get worse before it gets better. The consequences will be deadly.

Go deeper

Updated 24 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: How prior coronavirus infections factor into herd immunity — Study: Nearly a quarter of COVID-19 patients developed new or long-term conditions — U.S. COVID-19 death toll surpasses 600,000.
  2. Vaccines: Vermont becomes first state to reach 80% vaccine threshold — U.S. buys 200 million additional doses of Moderna’s COVID vaccine.
  3. Politics: Republicans push to sanction Chinese officials over Wuhan lab probe — Congress members hold moment of silence for Americans who died of COVID.
  4. States: California lifts most COVID restrictions — New York lifts most COVID restrictions as state hits 70% vaccination threshold — Graphic: Which states have vaccinated at least 70% of adults — In photos: Life slowly returning to normal as restrictions lift across U.S.
  5. World: The G7's billion-dose pledge, heralded by Biden, doesn't add up — Boris Johnson extends England's COVID restrictions to curb variant spread.
  6. Sports: How all 24 Euro 2020 countries have fared with COVID-19 and vaccines.
  7. 🎧 Podcast: Back to normal without herd immunity.
  8. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Jan 30, 2021 - World

Germany to impose travel restrictions to curb spread of coronavirus variants

Border police officers check passports and COVID-19 tests at Frankfurt Airport. Photo: Thomas Lohnes via Getty Images

Germany announced Friday that it was imposing new travel restrictions in an effort to curb the spread of more contagious coronavirus variants.

Details: All non-German residents traveling from countries deemed "areas of variant concern," including the United Kingdom, South Africa, Portugal, Ireland, Brazil, Lesotho and Eswatini, will be banned from entering the country, even if they test negative for the coronavirus.

Jan 29, 2021 - Health

WHO says most pregnant women can now receive coronavirus vaccine

A doctor administering Moderna's coronavirus vaccine at a university hospital in Essen, Germany, on Jan. 18. Photo: Lukas Schulze/Getty Images

The World Health Organization has altered its guidance for pregnant women who wish to receive the coronavirus vaccine, saying now that those at high risk of exposure to the COVID-19 or who have comorbidities that increase their risk of severe disease, may be vaccinated.

Why it matters: The WHO drew backlash for its previous guidance that did not recommend pregnant women be inoculated with vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, even though data indicated that pregnancy increased the risk of developing severe illness from the virus.