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Omicron is on the rise and states are eyeing renewed crisis standards

Inside the ICU at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, Utah
Intermountain Healthcare
Inside the ICU at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, Utah

News Brief

Omicron cases are surging across the Mountain West. In several states, more than 80% of ICU beds are filled.

While these COVID-19 infections tend to have milder overall symptoms for individuals, they’re still landing people in the hospital and stressing health care systems and workers.

Colorado activated crisis standards of care for emergency medical services earlier this month. Dave Jeppesen, the director of Idaho’s health department, recently said the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations there are also on the rise.

“At the same time, the number of healthcare workers out of work due to being infected or exposed to COVID-19 is high and also increasing,” Jeppesen said. “(If) the current trend continues, it is likely Idaho will enter crisis standards of care for a second time.”

A staff shortage on top of a spike in hospitalizations is a bad combination.

And while it may take time for an entire state to activate crisis standards, individual hospitals and ERs are having to make day-to-day decisions with quickly fluctuating staff. In New Mexico, for example, at least nine medical facilities have declared crisis standards over the past two months, as the Santa Fe New Mexican reported this week.

As of last week, Johns Hopkins data shows that New Mexico and Nevada had the lowest number of available ICU beds, with 90% and 89% of their beds filled, respectively. Wyoming had the most available beds, by far, with only 38% taken by patients of all kinds.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Nevada Public Radio, Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Copyright 2022 Boise State Public Radio News. To see more, visit Boise State Public Radio News.

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