Covid-19 Patients Overwhelm Busy Hospitals as Delta Variant Spreads

Health

The Wall Street Journal 04 August, 2021 - 04:30am 51 views

Melanie Evans and

The latest wave of Covid-19 hospitalizations is crashing into patients returning for care for other ailments, overtaxing some facilities and exhausting their doctors and nurses.

Surgeries and treatments for cancer, heart disease and other common conditions have rebounded this year, filling beds at many hospitals. At the same time, other respiratory viruses, such as RSV, have re-emerged along with public gatherings, adding to hospital strain.

The latest wave of Covid-19 hospitalizations is crashing into patients returning for care for other ailments, overtaxing some facilities and exhausting their doctors and nurses.

Surgeries and treatments for cancer, heart disease and other common conditions have rebounded this year, filling beds at many hospitals. At the same time, other respiratory viruses, such as RSV, have re-emerged along with public gatherings, adding to hospital strain.

Now some hospitals are treating more Covid-19 patients than ever before as the highly contagious Delta variant spreads, particularly where vaccination rates are lower. This new chapter of the protracted pandemic has exhausted hospital staff.

“The physical, mental and emotional toll of this pandemic is taking its toll,” said Linnette Johnson, a chief nursing officer with AdventHealth Central Florida, which last week said it would halt nonessential surgery to free staff and space for Covid-19 patients.

The resurgence risks stretching hospitals and healthcare workers so thin that patient outcomes could suffer, said medical and disaster-planning authorities. Patient surges can leave hospitals without enough doctors, nurses, space or equipment to care for patients as they normally would.

Total admitted patients overall is at an all-time high at CoxHealth facilities in Missouri.

Photo: Nathan Papes/The Springfield News-Leader/Associated Press

In Florida, an epicenter of the current surge, hospitalizations of Covid-19 patients shot higher in the past five weeks, data from tracking group CovidActNow show. The climb is sharper than last winter, when it took nearly three months for a smaller surge to peak in Florida. AdventHealth Central Florida was treating 1,060 Covid-19 patients on Friday, surpassing a previous peak of 900 in January.

Nationally, the seven-day average of Covid-19 hospitalizations peaked at about 137,470 in January, far higher than current levels of around 44,600, according to federal data. The seven-day average of new Covid-19 cases nationwide reached 85,459 on Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Get a morning briefing about the coronavirus pandemic three times a week and a weekly Health newsletter when the crisis abates.

Daily deaths have ticked up, but far less dramatically. Vaccines remain highly effective at preventing hospitalization and death, research shows, and daily vaccination rates in the U.S. have risen in recent days after being stalled for weeks.

As the Delta variant sweeps the globe, scientists are learning more about why new versions of the coronavirus spread faster, and what this could mean for vaccine efforts. The spike protein, which gives the virus its unmistakable shape, may hold the key. Illustration: Nick Collingwood/WSJ The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition

Some hospitals said the strain on their operations was exacerbated by unvaccinated staff members being sidelined after exposure to the virus.

Some hospitals require staff to get vaccinated, but others don’t.

“We’re struggling to make sure we have enough staff available to keep our hospitals open,” said Dr. Sarah Nafziger, vice president of University of Alabama Birmingham Hospital Clinical Services. She said the hospital has 62 workers out as a result of the pandemic, including 55 who tested positive for Covid-19.

Federal and academic researchers last month reported that while survival rates for Covid-19 patients have improved during the pandemic overall, coronavirus patients were at higher risk of dying at hospitals with higher patient surges.

“Survival gains were sort of eclipsed at hospitals that were overstretched by surges,” said Sameer Kadri, head of clinical epidemiology in critical care for the National Institutes of Health’s clinical research hospital and lead author of the study published in July by the Annals of Internal Medicine.

AdventHealth Central Florida said it would halt nonessential surgery to free up staff and space for coronavirus patients.

When hospitals reached or exceeded capacity last winter, they delayed transfers and more tightly limited admissions, including to ICUs. “Your thresholds change,” said Paul Biddinger, medical director for emergency preparedness at the Mass General Brigham hospital system in Boston.

Some hospitals hit by the latest surge are transferring patients with other conditions to free up capacity for more Covid-19 patients and to ensure access to care. In Missouri, Lake Regional Health System Chief Executive Dane Henry said doctors transferred an open-heart patient to another hospital because the hospital lacked intensive-care capacity to care for the patient after surgery.

The hospital’s weekly average inpatient occupancy reached 99% in early July as Covid-19 patients began filling beds, according to federal data. About one-third of the hospital’s beds at one point last week held Covid-19 patients, matching its prior pandemic peak of 30 coronavirus patients in mid-November, Mr. Henry said.

CoxHealth, a private not-for-profit healthcare system operating six hospitals and over 85 clinics in Missouri, was treating 187 Covid-19 inpatients on Sunday, more than a previous peak around 170 last winter. Total admitted patients overall is at an all-time high, with more people also coming in for deferred procedures and treatment.

“My advice to other hospitals is: Plan on being on the same high-water point you were in winter unless you’re in a community that has a really high vaccination rate,” said Steve Edwards, CoxHealth’s president and chief executive.

About 41% of people in Missouri are fully vaccinated, federal data show, compared with a nationwide average of 50%. Many counties that the hospital serves have vaccination rates below 20%.

Hospitals beyond current hot spots are feeling the strain, too.

University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago treated about 3,000 patients a month in its emergency department last year, many of them for Covid-19, said Terry Vanden Hoek, the department chairman. Now the emergency department is treating about 4,000 patients a month, including some with late-stage cancer, worsening heart disease and other conditions.

“The hospital is full. There are no beds to be had. We’re trying to do the best we can to get patients discharged,” he said.

About 3% of the hospital’s beds are occupied by Covid-19 patients now, compared with 40% during the pandemic’s peak, he said, making the prospect of a surge like those at other hospitals frightening.

“I don’t want to ever go through another pandemic surge again, and we have precious little room to flex up right now,” he said.

Write to Melanie Evans at Melanie.Evans@wsj.com and Julie Wernau at Julie.Wernau@wsj.com

Read full article at The Wall Street Journal

Answering your COVID-19 questions

11Alive 04 August, 2021 - 07:00pm

Covid-19 Patients Overwhelm Busy Hospitals as Delta Variant Spreads

CNN 04 August, 2021 - 04:30am

Melanie Evans and

The latest wave of Covid-19 hospitalizations is crashing into patients returning for care for other ailments, overtaxing some facilities and exhausting their doctors and nurses.

Surgeries and treatments for cancer, heart disease and other common conditions have rebounded this year, filling beds at many hospitals. At the same time, other respiratory viruses, such as RSV, have re-emerged along with public gatherings, adding to hospital strain.

The latest wave of Covid-19 hospitalizations is crashing into patients returning for care for other ailments, overtaxing some facilities and exhausting their doctors and nurses.

Surgeries and treatments for cancer, heart disease and other common conditions have rebounded this year, filling beds at many hospitals. At the same time, other respiratory viruses, such as RSV, have re-emerged along with public gatherings, adding to hospital strain.

Now some hospitals are treating more Covid-19 patients than ever before as the highly contagious Delta variant spreads, particularly where vaccination rates are lower. This new chapter of the protracted pandemic has exhausted hospital staff.

“The physical, mental and emotional toll of this pandemic is taking its toll,” said Linnette Johnson, a chief nursing officer with AdventHealth Central Florida, which last week said it would halt nonessential surgery to free staff and space for Covid-19 patients.

The resurgence risks stretching hospitals and healthcare workers so thin that patient outcomes could suffer, said medical and disaster-planning authorities. Patient surges can leave hospitals without enough doctors, nurses, space or equipment to care for patients as they normally would.

Total admitted patients overall is at an all-time high at CoxHealth facilities in Missouri.

Photo: Nathan Papes/The Springfield News-Leader/Associated Press

In Florida, an epicenter of the current surge, hospitalizations of Covid-19 patients shot higher in the past five weeks, data from tracking group CovidActNow show. The climb is sharper than last winter, when it took nearly three months for a smaller surge to peak in Florida. AdventHealth Central Florida was treating 1,060 Covid-19 patients on Friday, surpassing a previous peak of 900 in January.

Nationally, the seven-day average of Covid-19 hospitalizations peaked at about 137,470 in January, far higher than current levels of around 44,600, according to federal data. The seven-day average of new Covid-19 cases nationwide reached 85,459 on Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Get a morning briefing about the coronavirus pandemic three times a week and a weekly Health newsletter when the crisis abates.

Daily deaths have ticked up, but far less dramatically. Vaccines remain highly effective at preventing hospitalization and death, research shows, and daily vaccination rates in the U.S. have risen in recent days after being stalled for weeks.

As the Delta variant sweeps the globe, scientists are learning more about why new versions of the coronavirus spread faster, and what this could mean for vaccine efforts. The spike protein, which gives the virus its unmistakable shape, may hold the key. Illustration: Nick Collingwood/WSJ The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition

Some hospitals said the strain on their operations was exacerbated by unvaccinated staff members being sidelined after exposure to the virus.

Some hospitals require staff to get vaccinated, but others don’t.

“We’re struggling to make sure we have enough staff available to keep our hospitals open,” said Dr. Sarah Nafziger, vice president of University of Alabama Birmingham Hospital Clinical Services. She said the hospital has 62 workers out as a result of the pandemic, including 55 who tested positive for Covid-19.

Federal and academic researchers last month reported that while survival rates for Covid-19 patients have improved during the pandemic overall, coronavirus patients were at higher risk of dying at hospitals with higher patient surges.

“Survival gains were sort of eclipsed at hospitals that were overstretched by surges,” said Sameer Kadri, head of clinical epidemiology in critical care for the National Institutes of Health’s clinical research hospital and lead author of the study published in July by the Annals of Internal Medicine.

AdventHealth Central Florida said it would halt nonessential surgery to free up staff and space for coronavirus patients.

When hospitals reached or exceeded capacity last winter, they delayed transfers and more tightly limited admissions, including to ICUs. “Your thresholds change,” said Paul Biddinger, medical director for emergency preparedness at the Mass General Brigham hospital system in Boston.

Some hospitals hit by the latest surge are transferring patients with other conditions to free up capacity for more Covid-19 patients and to ensure access to care. In Missouri, Lake Regional Health System Chief Executive Dane Henry said doctors transferred an open-heart patient to another hospital because the hospital lacked intensive-care capacity to care for the patient after surgery.

The hospital’s weekly average inpatient occupancy reached 99% in early July as Covid-19 patients began filling beds, according to federal data. About one-third of the hospital’s beds at one point last week held Covid-19 patients, matching its prior pandemic peak of 30 coronavirus patients in mid-November, Mr. Henry said.

CoxHealth, a private not-for-profit healthcare system operating six hospitals and over 85 clinics in Missouri, was treating 187 Covid-19 inpatients on Sunday, more than a previous peak around 170 last winter. Total admitted patients overall is at an all-time high, with more people also coming in for deferred procedures and treatment.

“My advice to other hospitals is: Plan on being on the same high-water point you were in winter unless you’re in a community that has a really high vaccination rate,” said Steve Edwards, CoxHealth’s president and chief executive.

About 41% of people in Missouri are fully vaccinated, federal data show, compared with a nationwide average of 50%. Many counties that the hospital serves have vaccination rates below 20%.

Hospitals beyond current hot spots are feeling the strain, too.

University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago treated about 3,000 patients a month in its emergency department last year, many of them for Covid-19, said Terry Vanden Hoek, the department chairman. Now the emergency department is treating about 4,000 patients a month, including some with late-stage cancer, worsening heart disease and other conditions.

“The hospital is full. There are no beds to be had. We’re trying to do the best we can to get patients discharged,” he said.

About 3% of the hospital’s beds are occupied by Covid-19 patients now, compared with 40% during the pandemic’s peak, he said, making the prospect of a surge like those at other hospitals frightening.

“I don’t want to ever go through another pandemic surge again, and we have precious little room to flex up right now,” he said.

Write to Melanie Evans at Melanie.Evans@wsj.com and Julie Wernau at Julie.Wernau@wsj.com

Covid-19 Patients Overwhelm Busy Hospitals as Delta Variant Spreads

KING 5 04 August, 2021 - 04:30am

Melanie Evans and

The latest wave of Covid-19 hospitalizations is crashing into patients returning for care for other ailments, overtaxing some facilities and exhausting their doctors and nurses.

Surgeries and treatments for cancer, heart disease and other common conditions have rebounded this year, filling beds at many hospitals. At the same time, other respiratory viruses, such as RSV, have re-emerged along with public gatherings, adding to hospital strain.

The latest wave of Covid-19 hospitalizations is crashing into patients returning for care for other ailments, overtaxing some facilities and exhausting their doctors and nurses.

Surgeries and treatments for cancer, heart disease and other common conditions have rebounded this year, filling beds at many hospitals. At the same time, other respiratory viruses, such as RSV, have re-emerged along with public gatherings, adding to hospital strain.

Now some hospitals are treating more Covid-19 patients than ever before as the highly contagious Delta variant spreads, particularly where vaccination rates are lower. This new chapter of the protracted pandemic has exhausted hospital staff.

“The physical, mental and emotional toll of this pandemic is taking its toll,” said Linnette Johnson, a chief nursing officer with AdventHealth Central Florida, which last week said it would halt nonessential surgery to free staff and space for Covid-19 patients.

The resurgence risks stretching hospitals and healthcare workers so thin that patient outcomes could suffer, said medical and disaster-planning authorities. Patient surges can leave hospitals without enough doctors, nurses, space or equipment to care for patients as they normally would.

Total admitted patients overall is at an all-time high at CoxHealth facilities in Missouri.

Photo: Nathan Papes/The Springfield News-Leader/Associated Press

In Florida, an epicenter of the current surge, hospitalizations of Covid-19 patients shot higher in the past five weeks, data from tracking group CovidActNow show. The climb is sharper than last winter, when it took nearly three months for a smaller surge to peak in Florida. AdventHealth Central Florida was treating 1,060 Covid-19 patients on Friday, surpassing a previous peak of 900 in January.

Nationally, the seven-day average of Covid-19 hospitalizations peaked at about 137,470 in January, far higher than current levels of around 44,600, according to federal data. The seven-day average of new Covid-19 cases nationwide reached 85,459 on Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Get a morning briefing about the coronavirus pandemic three times a week and a weekly Health newsletter when the crisis abates.

Daily deaths have ticked up, but far less dramatically. Vaccines remain highly effective at preventing hospitalization and death, research shows, and daily vaccination rates in the U.S. have risen in recent days after being stalled for weeks.

As the Delta variant sweeps the globe, scientists are learning more about why new versions of the coronavirus spread faster, and what this could mean for vaccine efforts. The spike protein, which gives the virus its unmistakable shape, may hold the key. Illustration: Nick Collingwood/WSJ The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition

Some hospitals said the strain on their operations was exacerbated by unvaccinated staff members being sidelined after exposure to the virus.

Some hospitals require staff to get vaccinated, but others don’t.

“We’re struggling to make sure we have enough staff available to keep our hospitals open,” said Dr. Sarah Nafziger, vice president of University of Alabama Birmingham Hospital Clinical Services. She said the hospital has 62 workers out as a result of the pandemic, including 55 who tested positive for Covid-19.

Federal and academic researchers last month reported that while survival rates for Covid-19 patients have improved during the pandemic overall, coronavirus patients were at higher risk of dying at hospitals with higher patient surges.

“Survival gains were sort of eclipsed at hospitals that were overstretched by surges,” said Sameer Kadri, head of clinical epidemiology in critical care for the National Institutes of Health’s clinical research hospital and lead author of the study published in July by the Annals of Internal Medicine.

AdventHealth Central Florida said it would halt nonessential surgery to free up staff and space for coronavirus patients.

When hospitals reached or exceeded capacity last winter, they delayed transfers and more tightly limited admissions, including to ICUs. “Your thresholds change,” said Paul Biddinger, medical director for emergency preparedness at the Mass General Brigham hospital system in Boston.

Some hospitals hit by the latest surge are transferring patients with other conditions to free up capacity for more Covid-19 patients and to ensure access to care. In Missouri, Lake Regional Health System Chief Executive Dane Henry said doctors transferred an open-heart patient to another hospital because the hospital lacked intensive-care capacity to care for the patient after surgery.

The hospital’s weekly average inpatient occupancy reached 99% in early July as Covid-19 patients began filling beds, according to federal data. About one-third of the hospital’s beds at one point last week held Covid-19 patients, matching its prior pandemic peak of 30 coronavirus patients in mid-November, Mr. Henry said.

CoxHealth, a private not-for-profit healthcare system operating six hospitals and over 85 clinics in Missouri, was treating 187 Covid-19 inpatients on Sunday, more than a previous peak around 170 last winter. Total admitted patients overall is at an all-time high, with more people also coming in for deferred procedures and treatment.

“My advice to other hospitals is: Plan on being on the same high-water point you were in winter unless you’re in a community that has a really high vaccination rate,” said Steve Edwards, CoxHealth’s president and chief executive.

About 41% of people in Missouri are fully vaccinated, federal data show, compared with a nationwide average of 50%. Many counties that the hospital serves have vaccination rates below 20%.

Hospitals beyond current hot spots are feeling the strain, too.

University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago treated about 3,000 patients a month in its emergency department last year, many of them for Covid-19, said Terry Vanden Hoek, the department chairman. Now the emergency department is treating about 4,000 patients a month, including some with late-stage cancer, worsening heart disease and other conditions.

“The hospital is full. There are no beds to be had. We’re trying to do the best we can to get patients discharged,” he said.

About 3% of the hospital’s beds are occupied by Covid-19 patients now, compared with 40% during the pandemic’s peak, he said, making the prospect of a surge like those at other hospitals frightening.

“I don’t want to ever go through another pandemic surge again, and we have precious little room to flex up right now,” he said.

Write to Melanie Evans at Melanie.Evans@wsj.com and Julie Wernau at Julie.Wernau@wsj.com

Covid-19 Patients Overwhelm Busy Hospitals as Delta Variant Spreads

FOX 2 St. Louis 04 August, 2021 - 04:30am

Melanie Evans and

The latest wave of Covid-19 hospitalizations is crashing into patients returning for care for other ailments, overtaxing some facilities and exhausting their doctors and nurses.

Surgeries and treatments for cancer, heart disease and other common conditions have rebounded this year, filling beds at many hospitals. At the same time, other respiratory viruses, such as RSV, have re-emerged along with public gatherings, adding to hospital strain.

The latest wave of Covid-19 hospitalizations is crashing into patients returning for care for other ailments, overtaxing some facilities and exhausting their doctors and nurses.

Surgeries and treatments for cancer, heart disease and other common conditions have rebounded this year, filling beds at many hospitals. At the same time, other respiratory viruses, such as RSV, have re-emerged along with public gatherings, adding to hospital strain.

Now some hospitals are treating more Covid-19 patients than ever before as the highly contagious Delta variant spreads, particularly where vaccination rates are lower. This new chapter of the protracted pandemic has exhausted hospital staff.

“The physical, mental and emotional toll of this pandemic is taking its toll,” said Linnette Johnson, a chief nursing officer with AdventHealth Central Florida, which last week said it would halt nonessential surgery to free staff and space for Covid-19 patients.

The resurgence risks stretching hospitals and healthcare workers so thin that patient outcomes could suffer, said medical and disaster-planning authorities. Patient surges can leave hospitals without enough doctors, nurses, space or equipment to care for patients as they normally would.

Total admitted patients overall is at an all-time high at CoxHealth facilities in Missouri.

Photo: Nathan Papes/The Springfield News-Leader/Associated Press

In Florida, an epicenter of the current surge, hospitalizations of Covid-19 patients shot higher in the past five weeks, data from tracking group CovidActNow show. The climb is sharper than last winter, when it took nearly three months for a smaller surge to peak in Florida. AdventHealth Central Florida was treating 1,060 Covid-19 patients on Friday, surpassing a previous peak of 900 in January.

Nationally, the seven-day average of Covid-19 hospitalizations peaked at about 137,470 in January, far higher than current levels of around 44,600, according to federal data. The seven-day average of new Covid-19 cases nationwide reached 85,459 on Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Get a morning briefing about the coronavirus pandemic three times a week and a weekly Health newsletter when the crisis abates.

Daily deaths have ticked up, but far less dramatically. Vaccines remain highly effective at preventing hospitalization and death, research shows, and daily vaccination rates in the U.S. have risen in recent days after being stalled for weeks.

As the Delta variant sweeps the globe, scientists are learning more about why new versions of the coronavirus spread faster, and what this could mean for vaccine efforts. The spike protein, which gives the virus its unmistakable shape, may hold the key. Illustration: Nick Collingwood/WSJ The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition

Some hospitals said the strain on their operations was exacerbated by unvaccinated staff members being sidelined after exposure to the virus.

Some hospitals require staff to get vaccinated, but others don’t.

“We’re struggling to make sure we have enough staff available to keep our hospitals open,” said Dr. Sarah Nafziger, vice president of University of Alabama Birmingham Hospital Clinical Services. She said the hospital has 62 workers out as a result of the pandemic, including 55 who tested positive for Covid-19.

Federal and academic researchers last month reported that while survival rates for Covid-19 patients have improved during the pandemic overall, coronavirus patients were at higher risk of dying at hospitals with higher patient surges.

“Survival gains were sort of eclipsed at hospitals that were overstretched by surges,” said Sameer Kadri, head of clinical epidemiology in critical care for the National Institutes of Health’s clinical research hospital and lead author of the study published in July by the Annals of Internal Medicine.

AdventHealth Central Florida said it would halt nonessential surgery to free up staff and space for coronavirus patients.

When hospitals reached or exceeded capacity last winter, they delayed transfers and more tightly limited admissions, including to ICUs. “Your thresholds change,” said Paul Biddinger, medical director for emergency preparedness at the Mass General Brigham hospital system in Boston.

Some hospitals hit by the latest surge are transferring patients with other conditions to free up capacity for more Covid-19 patients and to ensure access to care. In Missouri, Lake Regional Health System Chief Executive Dane Henry said doctors transferred an open-heart patient to another hospital because the hospital lacked intensive-care capacity to care for the patient after surgery.

The hospital’s weekly average inpatient occupancy reached 99% in early July as Covid-19 patients began filling beds, according to federal data. About one-third of the hospital’s beds at one point last week held Covid-19 patients, matching its prior pandemic peak of 30 coronavirus patients in mid-November, Mr. Henry said.

CoxHealth, a private not-for-profit healthcare system operating six hospitals and over 85 clinics in Missouri, was treating 187 Covid-19 inpatients on Sunday, more than a previous peak around 170 last winter. Total admitted patients overall is at an all-time high, with more people also coming in for deferred procedures and treatment.

“My advice to other hospitals is: Plan on being on the same high-water point you were in winter unless you’re in a community that has a really high vaccination rate,” said Steve Edwards, CoxHealth’s president and chief executive.

About 41% of people in Missouri are fully vaccinated, federal data show, compared with a nationwide average of 50%. Many counties that the hospital serves have vaccination rates below 20%.

Hospitals beyond current hot spots are feeling the strain, too.

University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago treated about 3,000 patients a month in its emergency department last year, many of them for Covid-19, said Terry Vanden Hoek, the department chairman. Now the emergency department is treating about 4,000 patients a month, including some with late-stage cancer, worsening heart disease and other conditions.

“The hospital is full. There are no beds to be had. We’re trying to do the best we can to get patients discharged,” he said.

About 3% of the hospital’s beds are occupied by Covid-19 patients now, compared with 40% during the pandemic’s peak, he said, making the prospect of a surge like those at other hospitals frightening.

“I don’t want to ever go through another pandemic surge again, and we have precious little room to flex up right now,” he said.

Write to Melanie Evans at Melanie.Evans@wsj.com and Julie Wernau at Julie.Wernau@wsj.com

Covid-19 Patients Overwhelm Busy Hospitals as Delta Variant Spreads

azfamily powered by 3TV & CBS5AZ 04 August, 2021 - 04:30am

Melanie Evans and

The latest wave of Covid-19 hospitalizations is crashing into patients returning for care for other ailments, overtaxing some facilities and exhausting their doctors and nurses.

Surgeries and treatments for cancer, heart disease and other common conditions have rebounded this year, filling beds at many hospitals. At the same time, other respiratory viruses, such as RSV, have re-emerged along with public gatherings, adding to hospital strain.

The latest wave of Covid-19 hospitalizations is crashing into patients returning for care for other ailments, overtaxing some facilities and exhausting their doctors and nurses.

Surgeries and treatments for cancer, heart disease and other common conditions have rebounded this year, filling beds at many hospitals. At the same time, other respiratory viruses, such as RSV, have re-emerged along with public gatherings, adding to hospital strain.

Now some hospitals are treating more Covid-19 patients than ever before as the highly contagious Delta variant spreads, particularly where vaccination rates are lower. This new chapter of the protracted pandemic has exhausted hospital staff.

“The physical, mental and emotional toll of this pandemic is taking its toll,” said Linnette Johnson, a chief nursing officer with AdventHealth Central Florida, which last week said it would halt nonessential surgery to free staff and space for Covid-19 patients.

The resurgence risks stretching hospitals and healthcare workers so thin that patient outcomes could suffer, said medical and disaster-planning authorities. Patient surges can leave hospitals without enough doctors, nurses, space or equipment to care for patients as they normally would.

Total admitted patients overall is at an all-time high at CoxHealth facilities in Missouri.

Photo: Nathan Papes/The Springfield News-Leader/Associated Press

In Florida, an epicenter of the current surge, hospitalizations of Covid-19 patients shot higher in the past five weeks, data from tracking group CovidActNow show. The climb is sharper than last winter, when it took nearly three months for a smaller surge to peak in Florida. AdventHealth Central Florida was treating 1,060 Covid-19 patients on Friday, surpassing a previous peak of 900 in January.

Nationally, the seven-day average of Covid-19 hospitalizations peaked at about 137,470 in January, far higher than current levels of around 44,600, according to federal data. The seven-day average of new Covid-19 cases nationwide reached 85,459 on Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Get a morning briefing about the coronavirus pandemic three times a week and a weekly Health newsletter when the crisis abates.

Daily deaths have ticked up, but far less dramatically. Vaccines remain highly effective at preventing hospitalization and death, research shows, and daily vaccination rates in the U.S. have risen in recent days after being stalled for weeks.

As the Delta variant sweeps the globe, scientists are learning more about why new versions of the coronavirus spread faster, and what this could mean for vaccine efforts. The spike protein, which gives the virus its unmistakable shape, may hold the key. Illustration: Nick Collingwood/WSJ The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition

Some hospitals said the strain on their operations was exacerbated by unvaccinated staff members being sidelined after exposure to the virus.

Some hospitals require staff to get vaccinated, but others don’t.

“We’re struggling to make sure we have enough staff available to keep our hospitals open,” said Dr. Sarah Nafziger, vice president of University of Alabama Birmingham Hospital Clinical Services. She said the hospital has 62 workers out as a result of the pandemic, including 55 who tested positive for Covid-19.

Federal and academic researchers last month reported that while survival rates for Covid-19 patients have improved during the pandemic overall, coronavirus patients were at higher risk of dying at hospitals with higher patient surges.

“Survival gains were sort of eclipsed at hospitals that were overstretched by surges,” said Sameer Kadri, head of clinical epidemiology in critical care for the National Institutes of Health’s clinical research hospital and lead author of the study published in July by the Annals of Internal Medicine.

AdventHealth Central Florida said it would halt nonessential surgery to free up staff and space for coronavirus patients.

When hospitals reached or exceeded capacity last winter, they delayed transfers and more tightly limited admissions, including to ICUs. “Your thresholds change,” said Paul Biddinger, medical director for emergency preparedness at the Mass General Brigham hospital system in Boston.

Some hospitals hit by the latest surge are transferring patients with other conditions to free up capacity for more Covid-19 patients and to ensure access to care. In Missouri, Lake Regional Health System Chief Executive Dane Henry said doctors transferred an open-heart patient to another hospital because the hospital lacked intensive-care capacity to care for the patient after surgery.

The hospital’s weekly average inpatient occupancy reached 99% in early July as Covid-19 patients began filling beds, according to federal data. About one-third of the hospital’s beds at one point last week held Covid-19 patients, matching its prior pandemic peak of 30 coronavirus patients in mid-November, Mr. Henry said.

CoxHealth, a private not-for-profit healthcare system operating six hospitals and over 85 clinics in Missouri, was treating 187 Covid-19 inpatients on Sunday, more than a previous peak around 170 last winter. Total admitted patients overall is at an all-time high, with more people also coming in for deferred procedures and treatment.

“My advice to other hospitals is: Plan on being on the same high-water point you were in winter unless you’re in a community that has a really high vaccination rate,” said Steve Edwards, CoxHealth’s president and chief executive.

About 41% of people in Missouri are fully vaccinated, federal data show, compared with a nationwide average of 50%. Many counties that the hospital serves have vaccination rates below 20%.

Hospitals beyond current hot spots are feeling the strain, too.

University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago treated about 3,000 patients a month in its emergency department last year, many of them for Covid-19, said Terry Vanden Hoek, the department chairman. Now the emergency department is treating about 4,000 patients a month, including some with late-stage cancer, worsening heart disease and other conditions.

“The hospital is full. There are no beds to be had. We’re trying to do the best we can to get patients discharged,” he said.

About 3% of the hospital’s beds are occupied by Covid-19 patients now, compared with 40% during the pandemic’s peak, he said, making the prospect of a surge like those at other hospitals frightening.

“I don’t want to ever go through another pandemic surge again, and we have precious little room to flex up right now,” he said.

Write to Melanie Evans at Melanie.Evans@wsj.com and Julie Wernau at Julie.Wernau@wsj.com

Health Stories