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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

Updated 14 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: Fauci: "Confident" Omicron cases will peak in February — FDA OKs antiviral drug remdesivir for non-hospitalized COVID patients — Walensky: CDC language "pivoting" on "fully vaccinated".
  2. Vaccines: Annual COVID vaccine preferable to boosters, says Pfizer CEO — Team USA 100% vaccinated against COVID ahead of Beijing Olympics.
  3. Politics: Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates — Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: Beijing Olympic Committee lowers COVID testing threshold ahead of Games — Beijing officials urge COVID-19 "emergency mode" before Winter Olympics — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker
Updated Dec 3, 2021 - Health

Omicron cases confirmed in 5 U.S. states

A healthcare worker inserts a Covid-19 rapid test into a machine in Denver, Colorado. Photo: Daniel Brenner/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Hawaii became on Thursday the fifth state to confirm the newly discovered Omicron variant after New York announced five new cases earlier in the day.

The latest: In Hawaii, the variant was found in an unvaccinated O'ahu resident with moderate symptoms who had previously been infected with COVID-19, per a state health department statement. The variant has also been confirmed in California, Colorado and Minnesota.

Dec 3, 2021 - World

COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming

Recreated from Our World in Data; Chart: Axios Visuals

South Africa alerted the world to the Omicron variant. Now data out of South Africa may serve as a warning of what we're facing.

Driving the news: South Africa recorded 11,535 new cases Thursday with 22.4% of tests coming back positive — up from an average of about 300 new cases, with a 2% test positivity rate 10 days earlier. The country's top public health officials expect that exponential rise to continue as Omicron rapidly becomes the dominant variant.

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