Covid-19 hospitalizations hit a pandemic low in the US, but strain on hospitals persists

Health and Biotech

Fewer people are hospitalized with Covid-19 in the United States now than at any other point in the pandemic, but hospitals and staff continue to feel the strain.

As of Friday, there are 16,138 people in the hospital with Covid-19 — fewer than there have ever been since the US Department of Health and Human Services first started tracking in July 2020. Just 2% of hospital beds are currently in use for Covid-19 patients. Previously, the lowest point was in late June 2021, just before Delta became the dominant variant in the country. Covid-19 hospitalizations reached a peak in January 2022 amid the Omicron surge, when more than 160,000 people were hospitalized with Covid-19 at one time.

While the strain on the US hospital system directly related to treating Covid-19 patients has been significantly reduced, experts say that many hospitals are still burdened by staffing shortages and other patients who are coming in sicker after postponing care during the height of the pandemic. “I can’t hear that (data on Covid-19 hospitalizations) without shouting ‘hallelujah’ because the stress and strain of the last two years has been so enormous,” Nancy Foster, vice president for quality and patient safety policy at the American Hospital Association, told CNN. “But there are a number of things going on now that continue to make hospitals and their staff very busy.”

She says hospitals expected an influx of patients who had delayed care, either by choice or because the hospital system couldn’t accommodate them. “But I think it is that combination of having more people needing care than we had anticipated and having more staffing issues than we had anticipated that is really the biggest challenge right now,” she said. The broader snapshot of hospital capacity offers a stark contrast to the CDC’s “COVID-19 Community Levels” map, which tracks new hospital admissions and beds in use specifically for Covid-19 patients.