Friday, March 27, 2020

America's Overwhelmed Hospitals

I'm just going to do a very brief posting this morning.  Here is a screen capture of a headline from Time magazine that I found which is frightening given this time of COVID-19 virus panic:

This is really no surprise given the dire predictions of up to 80 percent of Americans being infected by the current iteration of the novel coronavirus.

Let's look at a quote from the Time article:

"The...epidemic is sending people to hospitals and urgent-care centers in every state, and medical centers are responding with extraordinary measures: asking staff to work overtime, setting up triage tents, restricting friends and family visits and canceling elective surgeries, to name a few.

“We are pretty much at capacity, and the volume is certainly different from previous flu seasons,” says Dr. Alfred Tallia, professor and chair of family medicine at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical Center in New Brunswick, New Jersey. “I’ve been in practice for 30 years, and it’s been a good 15 or 20 years since I’ve seen a flu-related illness scenario like we’ve had this year.”

Tallia says his hospital is “managing, but just barely,” at keeping up with the increased number of sick patients in the last three weeks. The hospital’s urgent-care centers have also been inundated, and its outpatient clinics have no appointments available....

In California, which has been particularly hard hit..., several hospitals have set up large “surge tents” outside their emergency departments to accommodate and treat flu patients. Even then, the LA Times reported this week, emergency departments had standing-room only, and some patients had to be treated in hallways." (all bolds are mine)

The sky is falling!  The sky is falling!

Wait a minute.  What you may find interesting is the date on this news item:

That's right - January 18, 2018.

During the 2017 - 2018 influenza season, the "especially severe" H3N2 virus strain resulted in the deaths of 188 children (by mid-April 2018) as shown on this graphic:

...and, according to media reports, was killing young and healthy adults.  According to a the transcript of a press conference from the CDC from January 2018, the H3 version of influenza viruses tended to be particularly hard on children and people aged 65 and older:

"So far this season, influenza A, H3N2, has been the most common form of influenza. These viruses are often linked to more severe illness, especially among children and people age 65 and older. When H3 viruses are predominant, we tend to have a worse flu season with more hospitalizations and more deaths."

Here is a graphic showing the rates of hospitalizations per 100,000 people for the 2017 - 2018 influenza season compared to the 2018 - 2019 season:

The 2017 - 2018 season hospitalization rate was the highest ever recorded by the CDC during an influenza season.

The 2017 - 2018 influenza season was also a record-breaker for another reason:

"...I think the simplest way to describe it is that flu is everywhere in the U.S. right now. There’s lots of flu in lots of places. Our team that does this kind of surveillance studies has been doing this particular thing for 13 years and this is the first year we had the entire continental U.S. be the same color on the graph meaning there’s widespread activity in all of the continental U.S. at this point. It is in a lot of places and causing a lot of flu."

I hope that this helps some of my readers to put the current COVID-19 situation into perspective. 


  1. The only numbers that are going to matter in the end is whether there is enough of X to treat the patient. And we are seeing in some countries that they do not have enough of X, apparently. I’m skeptical whether we can draw comparisons given the vast differences to account for: age, general health, population density, available/effective health care, etc. But I think that when we discover we don’t have enough of X, that won’t be a helpful time to try and prepare.

    The thing that kills me is the very media that is slobbering all over the cash they rake in with every apocalyptic headline ignored this outbreak except for using it as a reason to point out how terrible China is. (I’m not an apologist for China; I just happen to know how evil my own country is on its own and cannot stomach the self-righteous hairdos that can’t see the plank in their eye.) Anyone with half a brain could have said “what’s the worst thing that could happen if we over-prepared right now?” For Christ’s sake, all anyone would need to do is reference Event 201. Although, on a side note, and I made a comment about the event on an earlier post of yours, did any of the attendees of that conference say “Oh! Oh! Look, we just did that work for you - here!”? I certainly think I would’ve remembered that, but I’ll have to research to be sure. The only reason I can think of (aside from them being the puppet masters, and although the timing was terrible/perfect, groups run scenarios like this all along. And considering the first SARS and then MERS, it’s no wonder they’d pick a coronavirus) is that they are worried it would feed conspiracy theories and have kept quiet. Or actively scrubbed it. I should do some test posts to see if I can get them censored. The point is (and I do think I’ve travelled far off point), the urge of the powerful few to control information is just as fearsome as a pandemic. (Except maybe an actual pandemic flu, just b/c influenza A has those shifting powers that others don’t. It’s terrifying.) The act of suppressing information will always breed further suspicion of conspiracy. And what does it say about a powerful few rage they think controlling the idiot masses is better than shouting the answers to final test from every rooftop? Jerks.

    1. I realized that I didn’t land my initial rant about the media’s selective attention: they are largely responsible for the polarized wasteland we live in. They’ve spent the better part of two, maybe three decades pitting us against each other, fine tuning the equation that loyal outrage means loyal viewership which means cash. The companies that advertise on their channels are all to happy to play along, and to find politicians, while we tear each other apart. I’m tempted to wish the virus upon a good chunk of them, but I can’t bring my pacifist heart to commit, lol.