LANSING, Mich. — Overwhelmed hospitals are converting chapels, cafeterias, waiting rooms, hallways, even a parking garage into patient treatment areas. Staff members are desperately calling around to other medical centers in search of open beds. Fatigue and frustration are setting in among front-line workers.
Conditions inside the nation’s hospitals are deteriorating by the day as the coronavirus rages across the U.S. at an unrelenting pace and the confirmed death toll surpasses 250,000.
“We are depressed, disheartened and tired to the bone,” said Alison Johnson, director of critical care at Johnson City Medical Center in Tennessee, adding that she drives to and from work some days in tears.
The number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 in the U.S. has doubled in the past month and set new records every day this week. As of Tuesday, nearly 77,000 were hospitalized with the virus.
Texas is rushing thousands of additional medical staff to overworked hospitals as the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients statewide accelerates toward 8,000 for the first time since a deadly summer outbreak.
In the worsening rural Panhandle, roughly half of the admitted patients in Lubbock’s two main hospitals had COVID-19, and a dozen people with the virus were waiting in the emergency room for beds to open up Tuesday night, said Dr. Ron Cook, the Lubbock County health authority.
“We’re in trouble,” Cook said.
In Idaho, doctors warned that hospitals have almost reached the point where they need to ration care, unable to treat everyone because there aren’t enough beds or staffers to go around.
“Never in my career did I think we would even contemplate the idea of rationing care in the United States of America,” said Dr. Jim Souza, chief medical officer for St. Luke’s Health System.
Patience is wearing thin among medical workers over the lack of mask wearing that is contributing to the problem in rural areas.
“It kind of feels like we’re just, you know, yelling into the abyss,” said Cheyanne Seematter, a registered nurse at Stormont Vail. “We keep telling everybody to stay home, wear a mask, that it is actually bad here.”
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