As families prepare to gather over the Thanksgiving holiday, some hospitals across the country are being overwhelmed by COVID cases and staffing shortages, and surges tied to holiday gatherings could make it worse.
A potentially weekslong closure of a New York emergency department on Monday was sparked by a staffing shortage after unvaccinated health care workers were not allowed to continue work due to a state rule. Mount Sinai South Nassau’s emergency room in Long Beach will direct patients to its Oceanside emergency department.
Officials in Denver said hospitals are filling up, with about 80% of those hospitalized for COVID being unvaccinated, 9News reported. Dr. Robin Wittenstein, the CEO of Denver Health, told the outlet their system is on the “brink of collapse.”
“We are here today because too many people chose not to get vaccinated even though they were eligible,” said Denver Department of Public Health and Environment Executive Director Bob McDonald.
The University of Iowa’s hospital is also worried about hardship as COVID and flu cases are on the rise. In Dubuque County, hospitalizations for COVID are even as high as they were a year ago before vaccines were available.
“It’s cold now, and people are going to be indoors, and everyone’s tired of this,” Chief Medical Officer Theresa Brennan said. “People are hungry for human contact. And because of that, it’s likely people are going to be less strict about gathering, about masking, about distancing than they were last year.”
Hospitals in the cold Upper Midwest, especially Michigan and Minnesota, are also filled with COVID-19 patients who are mostly unvaccinated.
Though the availability of vaccines has made family gatherings safer, health experts are worried that large groups in hot spots, especially with unvaccinated people, could make COVID surges worse over the holiday.
For the holidays, “We would encourage people who gather to do so safely after they’ve been fully vaccinated, as we’ve been saying for months now,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.