COVID-19 hospitalizations peak last winter in Massachusetts


“Our emergency departments are at critical capacity and things will only get worse.”

At Greeley Tribune Medical Center, cars and people arrive for a COVID test. Stan Grossfeld / The Greeley Tribune Globe

While the Omicron variant appears to be more gentle Compared to previous COVID-19 strains, the unprecedented amount of infections has resulted in hospitalizations due to the virus in Massachusetts – disproportionately among unvaccinated residents – near the peak levels seen in last winter’s surge.

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State officials reported Tuesday that the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Massachusetts had risen to 2,372 — during last winter’s wave, before widespread distribution of the vaccine, reported January 4, 2021. Made close to the 2,428-patient peak.

The current wave is still far from approaching the first COVID-19 wave in Massachusetts, when hospitalizations reached 3,965 and state officials were enforcing strict lockdowns and open-field hospitals to mitigate the sudden surge of patients. fell.

The average number of new daily deaths due to COVID-19 in Massachusetts is also well below the rate during both previous surges. As of January 2, the state is reporting an average of 32 coronavirus deaths a day, compared to peaks of 175 and 75 in the spring of 2020 and last winter, respectively.

Still, the Omron version is simultaneously affecting the entire country and hospitals reeling from staff shortages, health care providers say, have been pushed to the brink. And they say it will get worse before it gets better.

“We are overwhelmed,” the Massachusetts College of Emergency Physicians and the Massachusetts Emergency Nurses Association said in a joint statement on Monday.

“Our emergency departments are at critical capacity and things will only get worse,” the group said. “Waiting rooms are overflowing and hospital admission beds are limited throughout Massachusetts.”

According to state data, Massachusetts occupies 91 percent of the available 8,691 hospital beds, including 85 percent of intensive care unit beds. The number of COVID-19 patients in ICUs – 441 as of Monday – is also close to its peak of 461 last winter, which is more than a third of all ICU beds.

Governor Charlie Baker’s administration and hospital leaders have said the spike in COVID-19 patients has led to an already high number of hospitalizations caused by patients who have experienced seasonal infections, among other conditions, during the pandemic. There is a delay in taking care of the trends. Last month, Baker’s administration ordered hospitals to cancel or postpone all scheduled non-urgent procedures because of the crisis.

While they urged residents not to ignore symptoms or avoid needed care, emergency providers warned of staff shortages – already estimated to have caused the loss of hundreds of hospital beds – as a result of the wave of Omicron infections. The reason will get worse.

“In the coming days and weeks, we will see that more nurses, doctors and support staff become infected and will remain at home to self-isolate and recover,” he said. “This situation will pose an even greater challenge to our emergency departments and hospitals.”

While three-quarters of Massachusetts’ population is fully vaccinated, about 63 percent of unvaccinated patients are hospitalized for COVID-19. Since mid-November, Baker has encouraged fully vaccinated residents to get booster shots once they are eligible, especially if they are older or have underlying medical conditions that could make them susceptible to COVID-19. Huh.

MACEP and MENA urged residents to get vaccinated and to wear a mask around others, even if vaccinated. He also emphasized that residents should not access routine COVID-19 tests or emergency departments for mild symptoms.

“Doing so is taking a toll on our departments and employees and diverting our attention away from those who need us most,” his statement said.