COVID-19 has hospitalized almost twice as many Americans as at any point in the pandemic, leaving medical providers on the brink of crisis with vaccine doses months away for most people.
The U.S. health care system and those who serve it are enduring more strain than ever. And the virus’s grip on hospitals has shifted toward more rural communities, where treatment alternatives are scarce.
In the near term, sustained patient loads threaten to accelerate deaths, as access to critical care declines in intensive care units. Longer term, the risks are more systemic: fatigue, attrition, and mental health damage to the doctors and nurses working to care for the sick.
“The moment when the percent of beds occupied by COVID patients increases, that really drives a lot of the staffing issues,” said Pinar Karaca-Mandic, a health care risk management professor at the University of Minnesota. “It exposed a lot of the fragmentation in … Read the rest