A new analysis estimates that hospital stress during the pandemic is linked to thousands of subsequent excess deaths, signaling the importance of ensuring that hospitals do not reach full capacity amid COVID-19 increases.
The research, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday, predicted that when the nationwide intensive care unit (ICU) capacity reaches 75 percent capacity, an additional 12,000 excess deaths could be expected within the next two weeks.
When hospitals exceed 100 percent ICU bed capacity, the study suggests that 80,000 excess deaths are expected two weeks later.
The Cyber Security and Infrastructure Security Agency’s COVID-19 task force performed the analysis based on data from 4 July 2020 to 10 July 2021.
Managing hospital capacity remains a challenge in different areas of the country – per. On October 25, the US ICU bed capacity has reached over 75 percent for at least 12 weeks in a row.
“This means that the United States continues to experience the high and persistent levels of hospital burden, which according to the results of the model are associated with significant subsequent increases in excess deaths,” the report said.
The research indicates “the importance of controlling case growth and subsequent hospitalizations before severe strain,” the report said, noting that the effects of the limited capacity on hospitals “fell more heavily on able-bodied adults from marginalized communities.”
The analysis defined excess deaths as the difference between the observed and expected number of deaths in a given time period. Researchers reported that ICU bed capacity was not the only prediction for excess deaths, but was an “important indicator.”
As several hospitals were overwhelmed by hospitalizations in recent months in the midst of the prevalence of the delta variant, some implemented standards of care for care that provided guidance to providers on prioritizing care and sometimes limited resources for certain patients.
This protocol in the midst of a flood of COVID-19 patients leads to “many” preventive and elective procedures being delayed, potentially adversely affecting those who may have used previous diagnosis and treatment.
Colorado activated crisis standards for care specifically for hospital staff last week in the midst of emergencies. Idaho and Alaska also implemented crisis care standards earlier this year to help health care providers distribute resources in stressed hospitals.
Based on the research, the CDC advised government and local officials to take measures to prevent this strain, including by promoting vaccinations and other measures against coronavirus.