U.S. hospitals rationing health-care amid COVID-19 surge driven by delta, the unvaccinated

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Idaho public health leaders on Thursday expanded health care rationing statewide and individual hospital systems in Alaska and Montana have enacted similar crisis standards amid a spike in the number of unvaccinated COVID-19 patients requiring hospitalization.

A nurse holds the hand of a COVID-19 patient in an intensive care unit in Boise, Idaho, on Aug. 31. Idaho public health leaders on Thursday expanded health-care rationing statewide.(Kyle Gree/The Associated Press)

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In another ominous sign about the spread of the delta variant, Idaho public health leaders on Thursday expanded health-care rationing statewide while individual hospital systems in Alaska and Montana enacted similar crisis standards amid a spike in the number of unvaccinated COVID-19 patients requiring hospitalization.

The decisions marked an escalation of the pandemic in several Western U.S. states, where officials are struggling to convince sceptical people to get vaccinated.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare made the announcement after St. Luke's Health System, the state's largest hospital network, asked state health leaders to allow "crisis standards of care" because the increase in COVID-19 patients has exhausted the state's medical resources.

Idaho is one of the least vaccinated U.S. states, with only about 40 per cent of its residents fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Protesters against vaccine mandates are seen during a visit by U.S. President Joe Biden in Boise on Monday.(Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman via AP)

Crisis care standards mean that scarce resources such as ICU beds will be allotted to the patients most likely to survive. Other patients will be treated with less effective methods or, in dire cases, given pain relief and other palliative care.

A hospital in Helena, Mont., was also forced to implement crisis standards of care amid a surge in COVID-19 patients. Critical care resources are at maximum capacity at St. Peter's Health hospital, officials said Thursday.

And earlier this week Providence Alaska Medical Center, that state's largest hospital, also started prioritizing resources.

Thursday's move in Idaho came a week after state officials started allowing health-care rationing at hospitals in northern parts of the state.

In Idaho's St. Luke's Health System, patients are being ventilated by hand — with a nurse or doctor squeezing a bag — for up to hours at a time while hospital officials work to find a bed with a mechanical ventilator, said chief medical officer Dr. Jim Souza.

Nurses attend to a COVID-19 patient in the intensive care unit of St. Luke's Boise Medical Center on Aug. 31.(Kyle Green/The Associated Press)

Others are being treated with high-flow oxygen in rooms without monitoring systems, which means a doctor or nurse might not hear an alarm if the patient has a medical emergency, he said. Some patients are being treated for sepsis — a life-threatening infection — in emergency department waiting rooms.

One in every 201 Idaho residents tested positive for COVID-19 over the past week, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. The mostly rural state ranks 12th in the U.S. for newly confirmed cases per capita.

Hospitalizations have skyrocketed. On Monday, the most recent data available from the state showed that 678 people were hospitalized statewide with the coronavirus.


What's happening across Canada

B.C. Premier John Horgan shows his provincial COVID-19 vaccine card in Vancouver on Thursday.(Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

  • Southern health region sees biggest chunk of Manitoba's 64 new cases.
  • P.E.I. announces 9 new cases related to Charlottetown school outbreak.
  • N.S. reports 34 new cases amid outbreak in unvaccinated northern community.

What's happening around the world

As of Thursday, more than 226.9 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University's coronavirus tracker. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.6 million.

In the Americas, Cuba began a vaccination campaign for children between the ages of two and 10, saying it was necessary to curb the spread of the delta variant. In previous weeks, the government started vaccinating children between the ages of 11 and 18.

In Asia, Chinese health officials say more than a billion people have been fully vaccinated in the world's most populous country — that represents 72 per cent of its 1.4 billion people. China has largely stopped the spread by imposing restrictions and mass testing whenever new cases are found. It also limits entry to the country and requires people who arrive to quarantine in a hotel for at least two weeks.

In Africa, the World Health Organization's Africa director says COVID-19 cases across the continent dropped 30 per cent last week, but says it's hardly reassuring given the dire shortage of vaccines. WHO's Dr. Matshidiso Moeti says only 3.6 per cent of Africa's population have been fully immunized, noting export bans and the hoarding of vaccines by rich countries has resulted in "a chokehold" on vaccine supplies to Africa.

In Europe, about 3,000 French health-care workers were suspended for not meeting this week's deadline to get mandatory coronavirus vaccinations, the health minister said. Meanwhile, Italy has mandated that workers in both the public and private sectors must provide a health pass — which shows proof of vaccination, a negative result on a recent rapid test or recovery from the virus in the last six months — in order to access the workplace starting on Oct. 15.

With files from CBC News

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Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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