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Expand chart
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."

Go deeper

United Airlines says 97% of U.S. employees fully vaccinated against COVID-19

Photo: James D. Morgan via Getty Images

United Airlines said Wednesday that over 97% of its U.S.-based employees are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to a company memo obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: United announced in August that it would require its 67,000 U.S.-based employees to get vaccinated by Sept. 27 or face termination. It's one of several airlines that set vaccine requirements even before President Biden issued his own vaccine mandate for employers with over 100 workers.

Education Department investigating Texas mask mandate ban

Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (left) and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona. Photos: Montinique Monroe and Win McNamee via Getty Images

The Education Department is investigating Texas' ban on mask mandates and its possible violation of disability rights.

Why it matters: Texas is one of several states under investigation for mask mandate bans that have impacted schools across the U.S.

11 hours ago - Health

Asymptomatic Florida students exposed to COVID no longer have to quarantine

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis during a September news conference in Viera, Fla. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced Wednesday an emergency order allowing parents to decide whether their children should quarantine or stay in school if they're exposed to COVID-19, provided they're asymptomatic.

Why it matters: People infected with COVID-19 can spread the coronavirus starting from two days before they display symptoms, according to the CDC. Quarantine helps prevent the virus' spread.

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