When patients in the emergency room tell Dr. Rina D’Abramo of the MetroHealth System in Cleveland that they haven’t been vaccinated, she finds it difficult.
“When you ask, ‘Are you vaccinated?’ you can hear it in their voice,” said D’Abramo, who works at a hospital in the Brecksville suburb. “They shrink back and say, ‘No.'” ‘Now I understand why I need vaccinations.’
Unfortunately, many people in Ohio, as well as the rest of the country, have yet to learn that lesson, even as infection rates across the country begin to rise again amid fears of the highly contagious new Omicron variant.
Ohio has more than 4,400 people hospitalized on a daily basis as a result of Covid, ranking fourth among states and representing a 29 percent increase in the last two weeks.
While the rise in Covid cases, holiday gatherings, and unanswered questions about the Omicron variant had sparked new concerns and warnings from doctors and public health officials in the US, the rise in Covid cases, holiday gatherings, and unanswered questions about the Omicron variant have sparked fresh concerns and warnings from doctors and public health officials in the US.
“I believe our progress in vaccination has slowed,” William Schaffner, an infectious diseases expert at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, explained.
According to the New York Times, 40% of the US population has not been fully vaccinated, and the number of doses administered each day has decreased from around 3.3 million in April to around 1.7 million today.
Ohio is surrounded by states where Covid cases and hospitalizations have recently increased. Each day, more than 4,500 patients are admitted to hospitals in Pennsylvania and Michigan, representing a more than 20% increase over the previous two weeks. Hospitalizations have increased by 49% in Illinois and Indiana.
D’Abramo diagnoses about ten patients per day with Covid, and she estimates that 98 percent of them are unvaccinated.
The capacity of hospitals in the Cleveland area has been strained as a result of this trend. Last week, MetroHealth, Cleveland Clinic, and University Hospitals announced that they had to postpone some non-urgent surgeries due to the surge.
“This action frees resources for patients with immediate and life-threatening needs and manages the demands on frontline caregivers, who have served with distinction throughout the pandemic,” according to a joint statement.
The emergency room and other parts of Beaumont Health, Michigan’s largest healthcare system, are packed, primarily with unvaccinated patients, according to Dr. Matthew Sims, a Beaumont physician, and director of infectious disease research.
“They have to be in rooms with Covid patients.” You can’t get to the point where you’re turning conference rooms into emergency rooms or hallways into wards due to overcrowding. “You can’t do that when it’s a contagious disease,” Sims explained.
Staffing shortages have hit Beaumont, as well as other hospitals in Michigan and across the country. According to the Detroit News, the federal government recently agreed to send 22 healthcare providers to a Beaumont facility in Dearborn and 22 healthcare providers to Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids.
“Everyone who works in healthcare is getting very tired,” in addition to the shortage. “We’ve been dealing with this for the past two years, and it’s getting to us,” Sims said.
Doctors continue to advise people not only to get vaccinated against Covid – and to get a booster shot if they are eligible – but also to wear N95 or KN95 masks indoors and, if possible, to gather outdoors or open doors and windows to improve filtration, according to Dr. Celine Gounder, an infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist at New York University.
People should also take quick Covid tests before holiday gatherings, according to Gounder.
Because of people’s refusal to get vaccinated, “I believe we have chosen one of the most painful paths through the pandemic in this country,” Gounder said. “I believe we have unnecessarily prolonged our suffering.”
According to National Public Radio, Gounder and others are now waiting for more information on the Omicron variant, which has been found in 19 states and 50 countries.
According to South African researchers, Omicron is more infectious but less severe than other strains of the virus.
While Schaffner stressed that more research is needed, if the variant proves to be more infectious and less likely to result in hospitalization, “then Omicron might actually be a bonus because we’d be vaccinating, but Omicron would also be spreading among the unvaccinated, making them mildly ill and offering them some protection,” he said.
According to Schaffner, this “would bring us closer, faster, to so-called herd immunity, which would lead to a more endemic situation rather than a pandemic.”
Meanwhile, D’Abramo, an emergency physician in Ohio, is dealing with the pandemic both inside and outside her hospital. She claims that two unvaccinated friends, one of whom has a 10-year-old child, recently became very ill with Covid.
The wife is still on an ECMO life support machine, and the husband was in the hospital for two weeks before returning home.
“That, to me, is a tragedy. “There’s no way of knowing whether she would have gotten sick if she had been vaccinated or not,” D’Abramo said.
She has Covid patients waiting for beds in the intensive care unit at the hospital on a regular basis. D’Abramo must decide whether or not they should be intubated and connected to a ventilator.
“I never say to myself after a shift, ‘That was a nice, normal shift.'” D’Abramo explained. “It’s nonstop, and it does feel like you’re being beaten down because you’re being beaten down by something I thought would be gone by the end of the winter.”
Ohio is one of the states with the highest recent increases in Covid-related hospitalizations, despite a nationwide spike in cases. According to a New York Times analysis of data, hospitalizations in the United States have increased by 19 percent in the last two weeks.