Or having a heart attack and being rushed to the hospital, only to find out that there is not enough emergency care for you.
“The difference between what is happening now as opposed to what has happened before is that the virus is now everywhere,” said Dr. Lena Wen, an emergency medical doctor.
“Previously, there were only a few hotspots across the country. Health care workers were able to volunteer and move between different states,” she said.
“But when the virus is so prevalent, we’re very … out of health care workers, which means patient care suffers. And we’ve been at the breaking point in our hospitals.”
Record Breaking Hospitalizations
Health experts say the current onslaught of fall Kovid-19 cases is the result of more indoor socialization, reopened schools and people taking safety precautions due to pandemic fatigue.
According to the Kovid Tracking Project, 61,964 patients across the country were hospitalized with Kovid-19 on Tuesday. This is the highest number since the outbreak began.
“We are already seeing our hospitals at a breaking point in some parts of the country. That means it does not only affect patients with coronavirus,” Wen said.
“This means that selective surgeries such as hip replacements, cancer surgery or in some cases heart surgery are discontinued.”
And the crisis will only get worse. Johns Hopkins University reports a record 136,325 new Kovid-19 cases in the United States.
A huge increase in new infections could lead to more hospitalizations and deaths in the coming weeks.
“Unfortunately, I think the announcement about the ‘new record’ will be repeated again and again,” said Dr Ashish Ha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health.
“We now have more infections than we have been sure of since the beginning of the epidemic. And I hope those numbers continue to rise. Hospitalizations continue to climb.”
When hospitals can not take more patients
In Idaho, some patients who need an abortion or joint replacement have to wait.
“We said no to the elite policies of staying overnight.”
Idaho was one of 17 states with the highest number of hospitalizations with Kovid-19 on Monday, according to the Kovid Tracking Project.
“We have reached a point where patients are not being diverted, but we need to transfer them to our sister hospitals in Boise, where they have some capacity,” Kern said two hours southeast of the capital.
“Basically when we get to the place where the hospital is full – based on the capacity of the staff available to us – then we say no to extra patients. So it will be patients in our own ER. Then they will have to be transferred to Boise by ambulance or helicopter or fixed-wing plane.”
Patients without coronavirus also suffer from the epidemic.
“We have a big backlog in cervical surgeries … knee replacement, hip replacements – anything can be stopped,” he said.
“Is that right? Forever. If anyone needs spinal surgery or cervical surgery, it’s really the boundary line. But we’re so crunchy for the staff, we have to make those decisions.”
The doctor who volunteered in NYC no longer travels
Dr. Thomas Diaz, an emergency room physician in San Francisco, spent a month volunteering at a New York hospital during the spring.
But now, Diaz is being held in California.
“When I need to be here, I worry about leaving at my current home,” Diaz said.
San Francisco is a lot better than most cities – probably because of the early mask order and shelter-place order, he said.
But at any moment the situation could change.
“These are unprecedented times for all of us,” Diaz said.
“We see its effects, if you look at them … not being able to have visitors in the hospital, (being separated from their loved ones in the hospital and being more likely to die.”
He sees young people being hospitalized with Kovid-19.
“I have patients in their 30s and 40s, otherwise healthy – they have been completely knocked down by Kovid and need to stay in the hospital with low oxygen saturation,” he says.
When a heart attack patient is unable to receive care quickly
In Utah, hospitals are “not really able to take in more people … especially in our intensive care units,” Governor Gary Herbert said.
“We don’t have rooms that have doctors and nurses who can provide health care.”
Utah mother Larry Terry learned the hard way. And she doesn’t even have coronavirus.
Eventually, Terry arrived at the hospital with the opening and the special care she needed. But her sister said her condition had worsened.
6 hours to the nearest ICU bed
Although large cities have been affected in the past, Kovid-19 cases are now erupting in rural areas of the country.
“Surgeries are taking place in rural areas due to the limited and limited resources available to expand the capacity to care for patients in most rural hospitals,” said Nancy Foster, vice president of the American Hospital Association’s Quality and Patient Safety Policy.
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly said hospital capacity in rural and urban areas of the state is now a big concern.
She recalls a recent example in rural Kirney County, where the ICU bed is closest to Kansas City – six hours by car.
“We have to (work) to smooth the curve,” the governor said. “We know how to reduce the spread of the virus. We know masks work.”
Some doctors and nurses with Kovid-19 continue to work
In North Dakota, staff shortages are so severe that coronavirus-infected asymptomatic health care workers can work in the medical facilities of Kovid-19 units.
“Our hospitals are now under extreme pressure,” Governor Dow Burgham said when announcing the change on Monday.
Such precautions include taking the temperature of health care workers daily and wearing a face mask.
Retired health care workers seek help
“Many nurses are coming out of retirement to address this issue,” said Gerard Brogan, director of nursing practice for National Nurses United, the largest union of registered nurses in the US.
Like many states, Wisconsin catches both the Kovid-19 patient attack and the heavily damaged health care system.
“The number of staff due to illness or detention is also a factor in the needs of our staff,” said Laura Hybe, chief nursing officer at Bellin Health Systems in Green Bay.
So Bellin asked retired health care workers to come back.
“They are assisting in our high-need areas such as test sites, follow-up phone calls and data entry. Some have worked in clinical areas, but many are not working in the front line due to age and other reasons,” she says.
The health care system has re-employed or re-employed more than 200 people, Hybe said. Among them were retirees and “a good number of Bellin college faculty and students who help with low-level jobs.”
This fall there is a key difference between the Kovid-19 surge and previous surgeries, Hybe said: “The size of inpatients is larger than last time.”
Doctors are begging for personal responsibility
For months, Americans said, “we need to flatten the curve so that hospitals do not flood.”
Yet here we are again: hospitals are at or near capacity, delaying some surgeries by starting to divert patients. Why?
“I think it’s very simple: people don’t behave themselves,” Brogan said.
“There are a lot of people who think it’s ‘planetary’. They don’t believe in science,” he said.
“There is a myth among young people that they can not get Kovid. People are not socially alienated. People do not wear masks. It’s an epidemic campaign that exacerbates the epidemic.”
Dr. Emily Spivak, who treats Kovid-19 patients in Salt Lake City, is frustrated that so many people do not take regular steps to help, such as physical distance, wearing a mask and washing their hands.
“I do not see the end. No one is doing anything to stop what is happening,” she said.
“People are going out and living their lives without realizing that people are tired of our health care system.”
This is a tragedy not only for their loved ones and colleagues, but also for patients who depend on their care.
And tired nurses who work 12-hour shifts sometimes look after twice as many patients as they normally would, Brogan said.
For those who don’t think they will be personally affected by this crisis, don’t count your luck forever, he said.
“Do not flood the system. If you do not have a close relative or loved one or someone in your neighborhood suffering from covid, you will be in the future if you do not adhere to these basic public health measures,” Brogan said.
“It’s a little sacrifice now for the greater good of all.”
The report was co-authored by CNN’s Raja Rezek, Claudia Dominguez, Brain Gingross, Martin Savidz, Don Prajigoda and Constantine Toropin.