BOSTON — According to the new state numbers released Sunday, 80% of ICU beds are now occupied in Massachusetts, and doctors fear this could get worse in the coming weeks.
“It’s definitely concerning to see these numbers go up like this; part of it does reflect more testing, but it’s also when you see hospitalizations rise you see it’s not just testing, there’s also just more disease,” said Dr. Paul Sax, director of infectious diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
For the last three consecutive days, there were more than 7,000 new cases in Massachusetts each day. That number dropped slightly Sunday to more than 5,000 new cases.
“It’s an enormous concern and what it represents is there is a tremendous amount of community transmission of COVID-19 right now,” Dr. Sax said. “In fact there’s more transmission of COVID-19 going on right now than there was in the spring when everything had completely shut down.”
Doctors are concerned about hospital capacity now that 80% of the state’s beds are occupied. As of Sunday, only about 20% of ICU beds are available across the state. In the City of Boston, only 13% of ICU beds are open.
Dr. Sax said it’s normal to have more people in the hospital in the winter for other illnesses, but they’re hoping they can continue to treat other serious medical conditions, not just COVID-19.
“In order to avoid that, where we have to stop caring for other problems, especially elective other problems, we’d like to decrease the number of COVID-19 cases in the hospital, but that so far has not been possible,” Dr. Sax said.
Some hospitals are finding ways to increase ICU capacity. Plus, the state is starting to rely on two field hospitals that recently reopened in Lowell and Worcester.
Dr. Sax said, even though people are starting to get the vaccine, now is not the time to let your guard down.
“There’s so much community transmission, right now, up and down the age spectrum that you can’t escape it, and I think that we have to be very careful,” Dr. Sax said.
He said the easiest thing you can do is keep wearing a mask in public and avoid gatherings.
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