Delta variant making pressures on medical staff worse

Published: Aug. 26, 2021 at 8:52 PM CDT
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GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - There was a time this spring when it looked like COVID-19 might be under control. In Mississippi, there were several days when less than 100 people were hospitalized. But that all changed very quickly.

“The perfect way people have described this is a war zone,” said Memorial Hospital at Gulfport Intensive Care unit manager Whitney Sutton.

Sutton has been on the front line of the coronavirus battle since day one. She has seen her staff work through wave after wave of infections, but this time it’s different.

“This is so much worse,” she said. “People are younger, people are sicker.”

On the first of July, the Mississippi Department of Health reported 113 people were hospitalized with COVID-19.

That number rocketed over the next few weeks, fueled by the Delta variant. By August 2nd, more than 1,000 COVID patients needed hospital beds.

There were 1,638 hospitalized on Wednesday with 472 of them in an ICU. Memorial had 92 COVID patients on Thursday with 29 in ICU.

According to the CDC, Delta accounted for 80% of COVID-19 cases in the US. by the end of July. Their most recent estimate says that the Delta variant accounts for 93% of all new COVID-19 cases in the country.

The impact on hospitals and their staff has been stark.

“The acuity of these patients is worse this round than the first round,” said Brandi Ladner, who manages the respiratory therapy department at Memorial. “So that turns into a lot of stress, a lot of staff that, you know, it was the same group of people that worked the first round of COVID so they’re tired.”

Debates about vaccines, dangerous remedy rumors and the spread of other misinformation have hit many health care workers hard.

“It’s frustrating,” Ladner said. “People don’t want to get vaccinated. People think they have a better treatment option at home than what we’re doing at the hospital, or that masks are annoying. They absolutely are and we are tired of wearing them all day every day as well. But they do help.”

Those working in hospitals say the first wave of COVID taught them many important lessons. After being caught with shortages of supplies and staff during the early waves of the pandemic, hospitals are much better prepared.

Memorial moved nurses from the anesthesia recovery and cardiac telemetry units to help in the COVID units.

“The last time this occurred, they were incorporated into our staffing for the first wave so they got some in-time training as well as, got to do some classes as well,” Sutton said. “And we worked with them hand-in-hand. Pretty much teamwork throughout this entire facility, everybody has been amazing. "

But that doesn’t mean it has been easy.

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