COVID patients flood area hospitals

  • Workers construct a rapid response triage outside the Emergency Department at Baystate Health in Springfield, Monday, Mar. 16, 2020. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 1/3/2022 7:22:32 PM
Modified: 1/3/2022 7:21:53 PM

SPRINGFIELD — Area hospitals are well over capacity as COVID-19 patients continue to arrive in record numbers amid a coronavirus wave that doesn’t yet show any signs of slowing down.

On Monday, Baystate Health reported that it was treating 233 COVID-19 patients across its hospital system, 26 of whom were in critical care. That was up from 223 patients hospitalized on Sunday and 212 on Saturday.

Those 233 hospitalized patients represent a record high for Baystate during the entirety of the COVID-19 pandemic. The number includes 190 inpatients at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield and 12 confirmed COVID-19 cases at Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield.

Similarly, the Northampton Health Department reported on Monday that Cooley Dickinson Hospital reported 25 inpatients with COVID-19.

“This is the highest census of COVID-19 patients CDH has ever experienced,” the Northampton Health Department said in its statement.

Northampton reported 355 cases over the 14-day period ending on Jan. 2, 2022. Statewide, the COVID-19 test positivity rate is 18.4% — a figure that does not account for the many home-based antigen tests people have taken recently. The Northampton Health Department noted that by comparison, the height of last winter’s surge saw an 8.55% test positivity rate and the peak positivity rate at the height of the delta variant surge this fall was 2.9%.

The new cases are largely driven by the incredibly contagious omicron variant, which has pushed hospitals across the region to their breaking point. On Dec. 16, when Baystate Health had 128 patients hospitalized across its system, CEO and President Mark Keroack warned that Baystate was already “in a crisis state.”

In a statement Monday, Northampton Health Director Merridith O’Leary said that cases and hospitalizations are “substantially higher” than at any point during the pandemic. And they are continuing to climb.

“While most people will have mild or moderate symptoms and will not require hospitalization, as a community we need to try to decrease transmission to protect the most vulnerable among us, reduce the burden on and stabilize our health care system, and ensure a continued workforce in general,” she said.

Those new cases are overwhelming health care systems, the health department said, leading to a lack of available beds as well as a lack of health care workers, many of whom who are out of work with infections.

Easthampton’s health department also warned on its Facebook page of “extremely high” case counts on Monday, though epidemiologist Megan Harvey said in a statement that rates have dropped slightly because of data reporting issues related to the holidays. Harvey said that Baystate Medical Center is 20% over capacity, noting that the state has been limiting elective surgeries since November.

“No matter what metric you use to look at our health care system, we are overwhelmed, understaffed, stretched too thin, and in dangerous risk of the situation becoming far worse and needing to move to rationing of care,” Harvey said in the health department’s statement. “Your chance of having a severe outcome will be lower if you can avoid getting infected during the surge, because you will have more access to testing, care and treatment. If you take nothing else from the update this week, please do all you can to flatten the surge for our heroic health care workers.”

Local health officials said that getting vaccinated, or getting a booster shot if eligible, is an essential step to take to reduce the risk of severe disease, hospitalization and death.

The Northampton Health Department also recommended staying home as much as possible, refraining from indoor social activities with those from other households, getting tested if possible and staying home if exposed or experiencing any symptoms.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.

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