Rising ICU bed use 'a big red flag'

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States proceed with reopening plans despite warnings local hospitals may struggle to handle a new coronavirus outbreak

Leavitt Partners’ Torch Insight Covid-19 Burden Index tool projects hospital and ICU bed capacity across states, metro areas, counties and individual hospitals,The tool can inform public officials and health care leaders that, “If things don’t change, this is what I need to be ready for at the extreme in three weeks,” said David Muhlestein, chief strategy and chief research officer of Leavitt Partners, the group behind the burden index tool.

Minnesota saw its largest single-day spike in Covid-19-related ICU bed use earlier this week, jumping from 207 people hospitalized in the ICU on Sunday to 248 by Monday. There were 260 ICU hospitalizations on Wednesday, the highest since the pandemic began. “This level of ICU use has not been unexpected,” she said, noting that the state tracks Covid-19 admissions and the availability of ICU beds and ventilators. “This past weekend, the overall picture for ICU bed availability on May 25 showed 87 percent of the ICU beds in the metro were in use. Other regions of the state had more availability. For comparison, it isn’t unusual for ICU beds to be 95 percent full during flu season.

Biddinger said the lower the peak of hospitalizations, the more likely it is that people who need ICU care will be able to access it. In Nebraska, where driving tests resumed at DMVs on Wednesday, a state legislator clashed with the state’s chief medical officer after he told reporters that a slight uptick in Covid-19 patients over the past week wasn’t affecting hospital bed or ICU availability.

“We have seen an increase in the number of patients hospitalized, but it hasn’t really affected the bed availability generally or the actual ICU bed availability. We are at a 29 percent bed availability,” he told reporters Tuesday.

 

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