Arkansas, Mississippi have just 31 open ICU beds combined


(NewsNation Now) — Hospitals in Arkansas and Mississippi are “at a breaking point” as COVID-19 patients fill up ICUs, leaving less than three dozen open beds in both states combined. Meanwhile in Florida, hospitals are having varying experiences.

A University of Mississippi Medical Center official says there are only six open ICU beds throughout the state.

Dr. LouAnn Woodward, UMMC COVID-19 incident commander, told NewsNation affiliate WJTV that the hospital is seeing more pediatric patients and younger adults who have contracted the Delta variant.

Not only is the medical center over capacity, but the hospital is also short-staffed.

Dr. Alan Jones, a COVID-19 clinical response leader, said UMMC and other hospital systems in the state are “at a breaking point.”

“We are not finite resources,” Jones said. “We can break. We can have to close. I think we’re rapidly heading to that direction.” 

In Arkansas, there are only 25 open ICU beds in the state, a record low since the start of COVID-19, according to the state health department.

Arkansas Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson called the majority-GOP Legislature back into session to revert a state law he signed earlier this year prohibiting school mask mandates. Hutchinson expressed some regret about signing the ban but said the state’s cases were much lower when the bill passed.

“Everything has changed now,” he said Tuesday. “And, yes, in hindsight, I wish that it had not become law.”

The agenda for the session on Wednesday also includes a proposal to prevent the state from having to resume making supplemental unemployment benefits to thousands of residents.

Arkansas and Mississippi have some of the lowest vaccination rates in the country.

In Arkansas, about 36% of the state’s population is fully vaccinated. In Mississippi, it’s only 35%.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 50% of people in the United States are fully vaccinated.

Florida is also setting records in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. But while on a call with the governor Wednesday, CEO’s from major Florida hospitals said perspective is important.

“Right now we have 126 COVID patients. We are a 1041 bed hospital,” said Tampa General CEO John Couris.

“80 percent of our patient census are non COVID patients,” said Broward Health CEO Shane Strum.

While cases are up, deaths are way down because 85 percent of Floridians over the age of 65 are fully vaccinated.

“Mortalities this summer are nowhere close to what they were last summer,” said Jackson Health CEO Carlos Migoya. “Dramatically less.”

While the hospital CEO’s on the call with the governor were not sounding the alarm, others are.

Memorial Health System, one of the largest in Florida, is overflowing and turning cafeterias into patient rooms.

“This is the highest number of patients that Memorial has ever seen,” said Dr. Marc Napp with Memorial Healthcare System. “It’s not the highest number of COVID patients, the highest number of COVID patients was still last summer. However, the numbers are rising and it’s pretty sure we are going to surpass those numbers.”

Part of the problem is hospitals aren’t just seeing more COVID-19 patients, they’re seeing more patients all around. People who delayed medical care because of the pandemic and are now very sick.

“This surge is real,” said Cheryl Wild, the chief nursing officer at Broward Health. “In our hospitals right now between 20 and 30 percent of the patients we are seeing are COVID positive. The rest of the patients we are seeing are acutely ill. These are patients who have put off care during the past 18 months of the pandemic”

NewsNation spoke with Mary Mayhew, the president and CEO of the Florida hospital association, about how this surge in cases is different. See the full interview in the player below.

The Associated Press and NewsNation affiliates KARK and WJTV contributed to this report.

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