Sept. 17, 2021 -- Medical authorities in Alaska are dealing with a spike in COVID-19 cases that is straining hospitals and health care providers.
On Wednesday, the state reported 1,068 new COVID cases, the highest daily case count since the pandemic began and a number 13% higher than the previous week, The Associated Press reported. The number of new cases dropped a little on Friday, to 1,027, according to the state’s COVID dashboard.
Hospitals are struggling to deal with the crush of COVID patients. The dashboard said Friday that 206 people were hospitalized with COVID, with 34 of them on ventilators. Of the 120 adult intensive care unit beds in the state, only 14 were available.
“Our hospitals have been and continue to be incredibly stressed,” Anne Zink, MD, the state’s chief medical officer, said on a conference call, according to The Associated Press. “There is not capacity in the hospitals to care for both COVID and non-COVID patients on a regular basis.”
That means people with non-COVID health problems are at higher risk, she said.
“And then we start to see excess mortality where more people dying from other things, such as heart attacks and strokes and car accidents and bear maulings or whatever else happens,” Zink said.
The state’s largest hospital, Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage, is so overwhelmed that it has instituted crisis care protocols.
“What does this mean?” the hospital medical staff wrote in an open letter to the public published Tuesday. “In short, we are faced with a situation in which we must prioritize scarce resources and treatments to those patients who have the potential to benefit the most. We have been required to develop and enact policies and procedures to ration medical care and treatments, including dialysis and specialized ventilatory support.”
Hospitalizations will probably increase in the next 2 to 4 weeks, the letter said.
“What is already a stressful situation could rapidly progress to a catastrophe.”
What’s more, the problem at Providence hospital could affect the whole state, since rural hospitals send their most serious cases there, health officials noted.
Jared Kosin, the president and CEO of the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association, told the AP that the Providence hospital announcement reflects how severe the COVID problem is in Alaska.
“We certainly, from the hospital world, have been talking about this and the grave circumstances and direction we’re headed. To now be here is really hard to make sense of when it is all preventable,” he said. “All it takes is a vaccine.”
The state COVID dashboard says there have been more than 95,000 infections in the state and 453 covid-related deaths.