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States are running out of ICU beds. See where COVID cases are rising the fastest

August 25, 2021, 10:48 PM UTC

What began as a summer promising America’s triumphant liberation from the pandemic is ending as one of a dire and growing COVID crisis, with a growing number of states running out of capacity to treat patients severely ill from the coronavirus. As of Tuesday Aug. 24, six states—Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and Texas—had less than 10% of ICU beds available according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  

Alabama, at 102% capacity, currently has more ICU patients than beds, and Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday said his state had run out of room for COVID patients as well. Another nine states have less than 20% of their ICU beds available. Nationally, ICU occupancy is 79.1% (in 2010, that number was about 67%).

Those stats reflect the country’s still surging number of new coronavirus cases—an average of 151,441 per day according to data from the New York Times, up 28% from two weeks ago—driven by the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant. States in the Southeast, led by Mississippi, Louisiana, and Florida, currently have the highest number of cases per capita, with more than 100 per 100,000 people. 

The number of new cases reported per day meanwhile has increased the most in states in the Upper Plains and Midwest, led by South Dakota, which has seen 456.3% rise over two weeks ago. New cases are falling in some of the states with the biggest outbreaks, including Louisiana and Arkansas.

Despite the nation’s months-long vaccination push, and the 171.8 million Americans who are fully vaccinated against the virus according to Aug. 25 data from the CDC, 48.3% of the U.S. population remains unvaccinated, leaving a large chunk of the population especially vulnerable in this phase of the pandemic. The vaccination rate for the population currently eligible to get the vaccine—age 12 and above—is 60.5% (the wait continues for younger children). While there is no national data, studies show the overwhelming majority of patients hospitalized with COVID are unvaccinated.

The vaccination rate has begun to climb more quickly recently as organizations have started to mandate vaccination for employees and students. The Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the Pfizer vaccine earlier this week will accelerate that trend. In other vaccine news, Moderna said today it completed the application process for full FDA approval of its COVID vaccine, while Johnson & Johnson reported that a booster dose of its vaccine increases the immune response.

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