Indiana hospitals strained for ICU space amid latest surge

Indiana hospitals continue to take the brunt of a statewide surge in infections and hospitalizations spurred by the more contagious delta variant.

Posted: Sep 14, 2021 8:53 AM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana hospitals continue to take the brunt of a statewide surge in infections and hospitalizations spurred by the more contagious delta variant.

The state Health Department’s latest report showed that hospitals around the state were treating 2,631 patients for COVID-19 as of Sunday — up more than six times for the state’s level of about 400 patients a day in early July.

Hospitals reported treating 726 people with COVID-19 in intensive care units, taking up more than 33% of available ICU beds. Statewide, nearly 83% of all ICU beds are occupied.

As patient admissions spike to levels not recorded since last winter’s surge, some Indiana hospitals have announced delays in some non-emergency surgeries, while others have started diverting ambulances away from their emergency rooms and intensive care units.

Eskenazi Health in Indianapolis has canceled all such procedures through at least Sept. 24. Columbus Regional Health, about 40 miles (64.37 kilometers) south of Indianapolis, suspended all non-emergency surgeries and procedures, indefinitely, starting Monday.

Indiana University Health, the state’s largest hospital system, last week began to put off all elective inpatient procedures for at least two weeks. Hospital officials said the suspension will be extended if needed in two-week periods.

Dr. Chris Weaver, an emergency medicine physician and senior vice president of clinical effectiveness for IU Health, said that while last winter's surge has taught hospitals to more quickly convert rooms to accommodate critical care patients, ICUs are “full and capacity is tight.”

“It’s been crazy busy,” Weaver said. “We’ve seen a big surge — in high volumes — of COVID cases, and pretty much everything. But the COVID burden is adding a great deal to it all.”

Although Weaver said the hospital system has not reached absolute capacity — and he doesn't think it will — the latest surge has required more hospitals to implement diversion measures, at times requiring patients to be transferred to other hospitals to receive care.

“With the volumes that hospitals are seeing, and to take care of patients and to make sure that everybody has a space to get cared for safely, it's really strained,” Weaver said. “The numbers that we’re seeing in our ICUs, and those being on a ventilator, those dying … a really, really small number of individuals that have been vaccinated are being affected that way. But that huge majority of people that are not vaccinated is really putting a strain on the capacity and access for care for everybody.”

About 54% of Indiana residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the 15th-lowest rate among the states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. State health officials, meanwhile, say 98% of recent COVID-19 hospitalizations are for unvaccinated people.

State officials have also maintained that if more Hoosiers don’t get vaccinated and wear masks, virus spread and hospitalizations will worsen though at least early October. They’ve attributed the recent surge, in part, to students’ return to schools.

Nearly 5,000 new cases were reported among Indiana students in the state health department’s weekly update of the its coronavirus school dashboard on Monday. Only about 3,000 of those cases dated back to the previous week, however.

The dashboard also reported 254 new cases among teachers and 397 new cases among other school staff employees.

Still, the dashboard data doesn’t provide the full scope of virus spread within schools. More than 600 schools — about one-quarter of all Indiana schools — have not reported cases to the state’s dashboard as mandated by law since the start of the new academic year.

The availability of virus data has improved since early August, when nearly half of all schools were failing to report to the state. A health department spokesperson said state health officials are “exploring options” to compel other schools to comply.

___

Casey Smith is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 926604

Reported Deaths: 15083
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1262201958
Lake626901087
Allen52772747
Hamilton43283445
St. Joseph41475584
Elkhart33129488
Vanderburgh29927439
Tippecanoe26589247
Johnson23267415
Hendricks21902340
Porter21473341
Clark17150224
Madison17065379
Vigo15815273
Monroe14298190
LaPorte14108237
Delaware13771219
Howard13635262
Kosciusko11232134
Hancock10637160
Warrick10523176
Bartholomew10341167
Floyd10200202
Wayne9690218
Grant8939196
Morgan8734158
Boone8299109
Dubois7596123
Henry7469128
Dearborn745187
Noble7294101
Marshall7237128
Cass7097117
Lawrence6862150
Shelby6457107
Jackson643981
Gibson6036106
Harrison595585
Huntington591891
Montgomery5706102
DeKalb563591
Knox537599
Miami531983
Clinton527164
Putnam525367
Whitley516251
Steuben486367
Wabash477492
Jasper471961
Jefferson461991
Ripley444175
Adams439365
Daviess4064106
Scott394963
White386257
Clay382356
Greene380189
Wells379683
Decatur379595
Fayette367176
Posey354941
Jennings346356
Washington325847
LaGrange315774
Spencer313034
Fountain309753
Randolph305487
Sullivan299447
Owen279161
Starke272761
Orange272659
Fulton268851
Jay250634
Perry247451
Carroll241127
Franklin233637
Vermillion229750
Rush228930
Parke215220
Tipton206754
Pike202538
Blackford165634
Pulaski158751
Crawford142818
Newton140742
Benton139816
Brown132646
Martin126916
Switzerland123510
Warren113416
Union93511
Ohio77211
Unassigned0468

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