Although the coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, and lately deaths are all trending downwards on a global and national basis, which is definitely a promising sign, the greatest concern at the moment is that the new overseas and local variants from the U.K., South Africa, and California will mean a new surge if we aren't careful. Furthermore, throughout the pandemic, it's worth noting that local trends have differed from national trends. At the start of the pandemic, for example, the Northeast was far worse off than the South.
The new variants could mean that only the slightest slip up in wearing masks, social distancing, and basic health precautions like washing hands and covering noses could cause a brand new spike. This is problematic because even as nationally, cases and hospitalizations decrease, locally, certain hospitals are still struggling to stay on top of caseloads.
Every week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services releases data detailing whether the network of American hospitals is reaching the limit in terms of how many patients can be treated, and whether the hospitals still have the resources they need to care for patients and keep medical staff safe. Should they reach that limit, it could mean that doctors are forced to triage and ration supplies to those most in need. Up till now, this has only been a very rare necessity.
The Department of Health and Human Services has been closely monitoring how the pandemic affects hospital capacity since early in the pandemic. In Cherokee County, where there's just one hospital that provides government data, the data reveals that 77.4 out of 243 beds at the hospital are occupied by COVID patients, which is about 30% of the beds. Furthermore, nearly 50% of the ICU beds are occupied by COVID patients.
The number of the inpatient's beds occupied in Cherokee County (~30%) is greater than the state's average of about 20% of inpatient beds occupied due to the coronavirus. It is said that if a hospital has over 20% of beds occupied due to the coronavirus, that suggests the hospital is very stressed and low on resources, suggesting that the state and Cherokee County, in particular, are under a lot of strain. Should downwards trends continue, the stress will naturally abate. But if the new variants cause a spike, the precarious balance hospitals have been maintaining could be toppled.