Medical Technology

The Inferno That’s Here: The US is still fighting the Delta Variant

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While everyone’s attention is on the new and unexplored coronavirus variant omicron the delta variant of the virus continues to cause havoc throughout the U.S. sending record numbers of patients and their families to hospitals in New England and the Midwest.

“Omicron is a speck in the horizon. “The fire that’s raging today is Delta variant,” said Dr. Nirav Shah from the state Center for Disease Control and Prevention of Maine. As of midweek, a record 334 patients suffering from COVID-19 were admitted to the hospital.

The U.S. recorded its first known omicron-related infection on Wednesday, in a fully immunized person who came back to California from South Africa, where the variant was first detected just a few days just a few days.

A second U.S. case was confirmed in Minnesota on Thursday. It involved a vaccine-vaccinated male who attended an anime convention in New York City that attracted an estimated 50,000 people just before Thanksgiving. Officials in Minnesota stated that he did not have any previous travel experience abroad. This would indicate that the variant has spread throughout the U.S.

However, there are many unanswered questions regarding Omicron. This includes whether it is more contagious or whether it is more difficult to thwart the vaccine, or if it weakens the immunity that people receive from COVID-19.

For the moment, the more contagious delta variant accounts for almost all cases in the U.S. and continues to inflict misery at a time when many hospitals are struggling with shortages of nurses as well as an overflow of patients going through procedures that had been delayed in the early stages of the pandemic.

Omicron could be able to bring more patients and potentially sicker patients to hospitals.

“For me, it’s simple, I’m not sure how,” said Dr. Natasha Bhuyan, a family physician in Phoenix, which has also been hard hit. “Are we likely to see another spike in cases that’s higher than what we’re currently seeing? What will that do to our health system? What impact will it have on our hospitals?

Two years into the epidemic, COVID-19 has killed over 780,000 Americans and deaths are at about 900 per day.

The number of deaths due to COVID-19 and cases in the U.S. has dropped by half since August and September’s peak, however, the number of new cases per day remains high at 86,000. This is especially the case when people travel and spend time with their families over the holidays.

With the onset of cold weather sending more people to the indoors hospitals are feeling the strain.

Dr. Andre Kalil, a University of Nebraska Medical Center infectious-disease doctor, said that “Delta” is not reducing. Nebraska on Tuesday reported 555 people in the hospital with COVID-19 -the highest count since December last year when the vaccine rollout was just beginning.

Vermont had 84 cases which is the highest count since the outbreak. New Hampshire, once a leader in vaccination, is now second to Michigan in terms of the number of new cases per capita in the last two weeks.

In Minnesota, which ranks third for the highest number of new cases per capita, the Pentagon sent medical teams last month to two major hospitals to alleviate nurses and doctors who were overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients.

“This fourth wave, as I can say with certainty, has hit Minnesota more than any other,” Dr. Timothy Johnson the president of Minnesota’s chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians said.

He said that hospitals are experiencing difficulties due to a combination of a shortage of nurses, fatigue and patients undergoing treatment that was delayed earlier in the crisis. He said, “Now those chickens have returned to the nest a little bit.”

At Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, where one of the military medical teams was based to, the number of COVID-19 patients has increased by twofold since September, although it remains well below the levels of pandemic, spokeswoman Christine Hill said.

She added, “And it’s concerning when the holidays are coming up.”

Michigan hospitals are dealing with more COVID-19 patients than at any other time in the pandemic. Medical teams from the military also visited Michigan.

Dr. Pauline Park, who takes care of critically sick patients at the University of Michigan Health in Ann Arbor, called the recent surge “heartbreaking.” One COVID-19 patient who was in her 20s, died the week before Thanksgiving. Another mother, with young children is being treated by a machine built to replace her lung.

Arizona where students in hundreds of classrooms have been placed in quarantine, reported more than 3,100 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday figures that are similar to those of the devastating summer of 2020. Hospital bed spaces have fallen to pandemic lows.

Bhuyan told the media that a patient of hers who had blood clots in her lung was discharged instead of being admitted. Other patients are waiting hours in the emergency room.

She said, “It’s just difficult because it feels like we’re actually going backwards. Even though we have these vaccinations, which are wonderful tools for us.”

Although more than three dozen countries around the world have reported cases of omicron, including India on Thursday, the number of cases is small outside of South Africa, which has confirmed more than 170 cases. World health authorities have yet to link any deaths to Omicron.

The delta variant is creating deep chaos in Europe too which includes Germany and Austria. South Korea is also seeing an increase in delta-driven events that has increased hospitalizations and deaths to record highs.

Thursday saw Germany exempt the unvaccinated from all cultural and recreational places as well as stores that are not essential to the public after the COVID-19 numbers exceeded 70,000 in just 24 hours. Lawmakers are expected to consider a general vaccine mandate in the coming weeks. Austria, meanwhile, extended its lockdown.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated that the measures were necessary due to the fact that hospitals could be overwhelmed: “The situation is serious in our country.”

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