After falling for months, Covid-19 hospitalizations across the US are on the upswing and approaching the peak levels seen in April.
The reason is simple: the US is experiencing a surge in cases, with states such as Florida, Texas and California reporting thousands of new confirmed cases in recent weeks.
At the peak of the pandemic in April, 59,538 people were hospitalized nationwide on April 15, according to the Covid Tracking Project. That number reached its lowest level on June 15 with 27,772 people hospitalized. But as of July 20, that number has climbed back up to 58,330 – just hints beneath April’s high.
Adm. Brett Giroir, an official on the White House coronavirus task force, said on Monday there was “no question we are having a surge right now.”
But while President Donald Trump, his allies and some Republican governors have pointed to increased testing as the reason, others have rightly pointed out that hospitalizations are not the result of testing, as testing does not send people to the hospital.
Only a serious illness like Covid-19 would do that.
“As rates of testing increase, we also are seeing increases in three other key indicators that suggest we are seeing a real increase in Covid infections,” said Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, director of the Infectious Diseases Division at the University of Alabama School of Medicine. She cited hospitalization rates, positivity rates, and deaths, which are now increasing in 26 states.
Here’s how the coronavirus is affecting hospitals in areas where it is spreading.
Hospitalizations in Florida
Hospitalizations in Florida have risen by more than a third in just the 12 days since the state started releasing daily hospitalization data. Data from the Covid Tracking Project and the Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration (AHCA) show a 37% rise in hospitalizations since data became available July 10.
There are more than 9,500 people hospitalized in Florida and least 53 hospitals in 27 counties said they had no more beds in their ICUs, according to AHCA data.
Statewide, ICU bed availability stands at 15.98% – that’s “available adult ICU beds,” according to AHCA data. On Monday, the available ICU bed count was 18.1%.
Miami-Dade County has exceeded its ICU capacity, with 130% occupancy on Monday, according to the county’s Covid-19 dashboard.
Another number to consider: More than 3 million people in Florida have been tested for Covid-19 with 350,047 testing positive. The overall positivity rate as of Monday morning was 18.7%, up from 18.2% on Sunday, according to John Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center.
For comparison, in New York City, where the pandemic first took hold in the US, officials reported a positivity rate of just 2%.
Hospitalizations in California
California was the first state to issue a stay-at-home order on March 18.
Less than a month later, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said residents had “bent the curve,” and the state started to phase out the early stages of its reopening plan in May.
Then cases surged. Newsom banned indoor dining, shuttered bars and forced many businesses to close once again.
Now, Los Angeles County has surpassed its record for daily hospitalizations for the fourth time in just the past week alone, according to Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the county’s public health director.
The county has at least 2,232 patients currently hospitalized with 26% of them in the ICU and 19% on ventilators, according to the county’s public health department.
Statewide, hospitalization rates and those in the intensive care unit are again reaching highs with increases of 1.9% and 0.7% respectively, according to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).
Meanwhile, California’s positivity rate over the past two weeks stands at 7.5%, which is slightly under the state’s goal of remaining below 8%, according to CDPH data. More than 6.5 million tests have been performed to date.
“We opened up too soon,” Anne Rimoin, an epidemiology professor at the University of California Los Angeles, told CNN. “We didn’t have the virus totally under control.”
California is fast approaching New York in total number of confirmed cases, and at this rate, could easily surpass New York to have the highest number of confirmed cases in the US.
“Whatever is done, states experiencing these increases in severe illness and with health care facilities under siege need help and a plan B, because plan A, reopening with lukewarm or no adherence to masks or social distancing clearly did not work,” Marrazzo said.
Hospitalizations in Texas
Hospitals in Texas are facing an unprecedented wave of hospitalizations – it is the only state in the US currently with more than 10,000 hospitalizations.
Texas has 10,848 people currently hospitalized, according to the Covid Tracking Project.
While that number is still comparably low to the record 18,825 hospitalized in New York during the peak of the pandemic, there are fears it could potentially be matched or surpassed at its current rate.
On Monday, President Trump acknowledged that the state, along with Florida, was dealing with a “flare up” in cases.
The US Navy sent 70 medical personnel from Pensacola, Florida, to support civilian hospitals in Texas as the state deals with an increase in cases. The Navy said in a statement Tuesday that it was responding to a request for help from state officials and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The sailors
It’s not the second wave – it’s the first
Officials and experts have long warned the public about bracing for a second wave, but the first wave has not truly ended and the spread of the virus has not even remotely been contained, some experts say.
“Some places never experienced an end of a first wave – certainly in the South, we never really got below a baseline level since April,” Marrazzo said. “A real second wave to me would be if someplace that has truly controlled spread, like New York or Connecticut, had another surge.”
Marrazzo believes that the surge in hospitalizations can be attributed to one simple thing: The uncontrolled and sustained spread of infection in the community. Until the spread of the virus is contained, the rate of hospitalizations will continue to remain high.
“None of those currently experiencing these worrisome trends ever fulfilled the criteria laid out by the task force, which included a sustained downtrend in the percent positive tests for at least 2 weeks,” Marrazzo said.
At least 27 states in the US have paused or rolled back their reopening plans due to the rising rates of infections. The math is simple: more infections will lead to more hospitalizations.
CNN’s Ryan Browne, Erica Henry, Randi Kaye, Jason Kravarik, Christina Maxouris, Sarah Moon, Jenn Selva, Sara Sidner, Naomi Thomas, Ben Tinker and Holly Yan contributed to this report.