Nearly 300% more Covid patients in US hospitals at weekend than a year ago

The number of Covid-19 patients in hospitals across the US this Labor Day weekend was nearly 300% higher than this time last year, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The average number of deaths was over 86% higher than the same period last year.

The surge in patients comes as the highly contagious Delta variant continues to spread across the US, and coincided with a weekend that saw a spike in travel. According to the Transportation Security Administration, more than 3.5 million people travelled across the country on Friday and Saturday for the Labor Day holiday, despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation for unvaccinated people to refrain from traveling.

Hospitalizations and deaths are a lagging indicator of Covid spread, so the impact of people’s travels this week will not be clear right away, but the agency is continuing to advise caution.

“We have actually articulated that people who are fully vaccinated and who are wearing masks can travel,” said Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, last week. “Although given where we are with disease transmission right now, we would say that people need to take their own – these risks – into their own consideration as they think about traveling,” she added.

This past weekend saw 1.146m weekly cases, compared with 287,235 last year. Despite the decline in cases in certain states including Florida, other states such as Idaho are seeing hospitals begin to ration healthcare amid patient surges.

Idaho’s state health agency cited a “severe shortage of staffing and available beds”, warning residents that they may not get the care they would normally expect if they required hospitalization. On Tuesday, the state’s public health leaders also announced that they activated “crisis standards of care” allowing healthcare rationing for the state’s northern hospitals due to the overwhelming amount of Covid-19 patients. The move allows hospitals to distribute scant resources such as intensive care unit rooms to patients most likely to survive.

Other states are preparing for similar measures. Last week, Hawaii’s governor, David Ige, signed an order releasing hospitals and healthcare workers from liability if they have to ration healthcare in the future.

According to the CDC, the entire US continues to remain at a “high” level of community transmission as healthcare officials monitor the emerging Mu variant, a strain that the World Health Organization says could have the potential to evade the immune defenses of vaccinated or previously infected people.

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