US COVID-19 hospitalizations top 100K since January, HHS says

For the first time since the COVID-19 winter surge, coronavirus hospitalizations have topped more than 100,000, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

As of August 25, the department’s online dashboard reported 100,317 impatient beds are in use for COVID-19 with more than 5,400 hospitals reporting the data. 

According to the Wall Street Journal, hospitalizations hit a peak on Jan. 14 at 142,229.

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Across the country, hospitals are running out of space for COVID-19 patients fueled by the more transmissible delta variant. 

Florida, Arkansas, Louisiana and Oregon all have more people hospitalized with COVID-19 than at any other point in the pandemic, and nursing staffs are badly strained.

In Florida, virus cases have filled so many hospital beds that ambulance services and fire departments are straining to respond to emergencies. Some patients wait inside ambulances for up to an hour before hospitals in St. Petersburg, Florida, can admit them — a process that usually takes about 15 minutes, Pinellas County Administrator Barry Burton said.

COVID-19 hospitalizations have increased 990% in Oregon since July 9, according to health officials.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky previously warned that the outbreak in the U.S. is becoming "a pandemic of the unvaccinated" because nearly all hospital admissions and deaths are among those who hadn’t been immunized.

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The U.S. gave full approval to Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine Monday, potentially boosting public confidence in the shots and instantly opening the way for more universities, companies and local governments to make vaccinations mandatory. Moderna, another vaccine maker, is also seeking full approval. 

According to the CDC, more than 171 million Americans are fully vaccinated, representing 51.7% of the country’s total population. 

Last week, U.S. health officials announced plans to dispense COVID-19 booster shots to all Americans to shore up their protection amid the surging delta variant and signs that the vaccines’ effectiveness is slipping. The plan, as outlined by the chief of the CDC and other top health authorities, calls for an extra dose eight months after people get their second shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. The doses could begin the week of Sept. 20.

Johnson & Johnson said Wednesday that new data support a booster dose of its COVID-19 vaccine after studies showed antibodies levels were nine times higher than after the original dose of its vaccine.

More companies and local governments are rolling out vaccine mandates.

All New York City public school teachers and other staffers will have to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, officials said Monday, ramping up pandemic protections as the nation’s largest school system prepares for classes to start next month.

Kelly Hayes, Jordan Smith and the Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.