Salem Radio Network News Sunday, September 26, 2021

Health

U.S. South braces for record numbers of hospitalized COVID patients

By Joseph Ax and Nathan Layne

(Reuters) -COVID hospitalizations in Louisiana and Florida have surged to their highest points of the pandemic, leading overwhelmed doctors on Monday to plead with the unvaccinated to get inoculated against the Delta variant.

More than 10,000 patients were hospitalized in Florida on Sunday, surpassing that state’s record. The surging Delta variant led Louisiana’s governor to reinstate a statewide indoor mask mandate, with that state expected to break its record on COVID hospitalizations within 24 hours. Hospitalizations in Arkansas are also soaring and could eventually break records. (Graphic on U.S. outbreak) https://tmsnrt.rs/2WTOZDR

Doctors in Louisiana who spoke during a Monday press conference with Governor John Bel Edwards pleaded with citizens to get vaccinated, warning that hospitals were overwhelmed and their ability to treat any patient was hamstrung.

“These are the darkest days of this pandemic,” said Dr. Catherine O’Neal, chief medical officer of Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “We are no longer giving adequate care to patients. … We no longer think we are giving adequate care to anybody.”

O’Neal and other doctors in Louisiana said the biggest bottleneck was staffing, with many nurses out sick with COVID. The state has a deficit of over 6,000 nurses right now, officials said.

In California, officials in eight counties in the San Francisco Bay Area announced Monday they were reinstating mandatory masking indoors in public places, as of midnight Tuesday morning.

Transport workers in New York and hospital, nursing home, and jail employees in New Jersey will face new requirements to get vaccinated or submit to regular testing, their governors announced Monday, while Denver’s mayor said inoculation would be mandatory for the city’s more than 11,000 employees.

Some local and county government are returning to mandating masks, and Louisiana will require them statewide indoors starting Wednesday. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has taken the opposite stance. He issued an executive order last week barring schools from requiring face coverings.

The steps represent the latest attempts by policy makers to spur reluctant Americans to get vaccinated as the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus surges nationwide, infecting mostly people who are unvaccinated.

Florida has one of the worst outbreaks in the nation and about one-quarter of the country’s hospitalized COVID patients, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services https://bit.ly/2Vj3tjZ.

Mary Mayhew, head of Florida’s hospital association, said the current surge sent COVID hospitalizations skyrocketing to 10,000 from 2,000 in less than 30 days, although deaths have remained well below the previous peak.

“It is a much younger age group that is getting hospitalized,” Mayhew said. “For the last year, so many heard repeatedly that COVID had the greatest risk for our elderly, for individuals with serious underlying conditions, but the Delta variant is clearly a significant risk for younger people.”

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo also sounded the alarm, urging but not mandating bars, restaurants and other private businesses to require all customers be vaccinated before entering. The Democratic governor also said that vaccines could become mandatory for nursing home workers, teachers and healthcare workers if case numbers do not improve.

Cuomo also announced that all employees of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs the trains and subways, and all the workers from his state for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which oversees the region’s bridges, airports, and tunnels, would need to be vaccinated by Labor Day on Sept. 6 or submit to weekly testing.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said state health care workers and employees who work in jails must by vaccinated by Sept. 7 or face testing twice a week. New Jersey added employees of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities to its vaccination-or-test rule after active outbreaks in those facilities doubled in the past two weeks to 38.

Murphy said his current stance marked the “floor”, suggesting he could expand the scope of such mandates, and he encouraged private companies to follow his lead.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax in Princeton, New Jersey; Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Brad Brooks in Lubbock, Texas; and Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento, California; Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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