Hospitals in half of US states close to capacity as Omicron continues surge - The Guardian

Hospitals in nearly half of US states are nearing capacity, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, as the Omicron variant has triggered a record number of cases across the country.

In 18 states at least 85% of adult intensive care unit beds were in use, while in 24 states at least 80% of staffed hospital beds were occupied, HHS data shows.

Alabama, Missouri, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Texas and Wisconsin are among the states suffering a particular shortage of ICU beds.

In Texas, which this week set a new record for Covid-19 cases reported in a single day, with 75,817 total new cases, more than 92% of ICU beds are occupied, according to HHS, 34.3% of the beds occupied by Covid-19 patients.

In Wisconsin 90.6% of ICU beds are occupied, 41.4% of those with Covid-19 patients. Rhode Island and Alabama each has more than 91% of ICU beds occupied. The New York Times first reported on the HHS data.

The south has been hit particularly hard by the new variant, with states continuing to report record case numbers amid serious concern around hospital staff shortages.

On Thursday Joe Biden said 1,000 members of the military will be dispatched to help mitigate staffing crunches at hospitals across the country, with many facilities struggling because their workers are in at-home quarantines due to the virus at the same time as Covid-19 cases have surged.

The US leads the world in the daily average number of new infections reported, accounting for one in every three infections reported worldwide, according to a Reuters tally. Data suggests cases may be beginning to plateau in New York and the east coast after extraordinary surges.

However, Texas has reported a test positivity rate of more than 35% over the past week, WFAA.com reported, as the Texas department of state and health services said "Covid has never spread this fast" in the state.

Alabama state reported a record number of children hospitalized with coronavirus this week, due to the highly transmissible Omicron variant. At least 60 children had been hospitalized with 13 receiving treatment in intensive care.

The state has recorded a number of record case highs throughout January as officials continue to urge all those eligible to receive the Covid vaccine.

State health officials told the Montgomery Advertiser they were "extremely concerned" about the rise of hospitalizations among children and parents to get their children inoculated.

Vaccination rates in Alabama also remain low, with just 48% of the population fully vaccinated.

On Thursday, the supreme court blocked the Biden administration from enforcing a requirement that employees at large businesses be vaccinated against Covid-19 or undergo weekly testing and wear a mask on the job.

The court's conservative majority concluded the administration overstepped its authority by seeking to impose the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (Osha) vaccine-or-test rule on US businesses with at least 100 employees. More than 80 million people would have been affected.

Biden has pledged to deliver 1bn free at-home test kits to Americans, as a test kit shortage across the country continues to hamper efforts to control the Omicron variant. Biden said a website where people can request tests will launch next week.

In New York City, the number of new cases has flattened in recent days, the New York Times reported, while New Jersey and Maryland have seen a slight decrease in the number of infections.

"Every case is one too many, but if you watch the trend line, it looks like we may be cresting over that peak," Kathy Hochul, governor of New York, said in a briefing this week.

"We are not at the end, but this is a glimmer of hope when we desperately need that."

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