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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

Oct 26, 2021 - Health

96% of Tyson Foods employees vaccinated ahead of mandate deadline

Photo: Worth Sparkman/Axios

Tyson Foods said Tuesday that more than 96% of its workers have received the COVID-19 vaccine ahead of the company's Nov. 1 deadline to get all employees vaccinated.

Driving the news: Tyson Foods CEO Donnie King said nearly 60,000 additional workers received the shots after the company announced its vaccine mandate in August. At the time, a little less than half of all employees had been vaccinated.

Oct 26, 2021 - Health

Alabama governor orders state agencies to fight federal vaccine mandate

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey. Photo: Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on Monday signed an executive order directing state agencies to not enforce federal coronavirus vaccine mandates, and instead cooperate with the state's attorney general to sue the Biden administration over the requirements.

The big picture: No government entity shall impose any agreement demanding that an employee get vaccinated, the Republican governor's executive order says. It adds that state employees will not be required to present vaccination proof to receive any sort of government service or to enter a government building.

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
Oct 26, 2021 - Health

FDA panel endorses Pfizer vaccines for 5-to-11-year-olds

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Members of the Food and Drug Administration's vaccine expert panel Tuesday endorsed a two-dose series of Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5–11. The final vote was 17 members in favor, with one member abstaining.

Why it matters: While not binding, the decision is a long-awaited step toward getting COVID vaccines in the arms of some of the youngest Americans potentially in time to get many fully vaccinated in advance of the holiday season.

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