This was predicted in the spring of this year but for some reason, not enough people took it seriously. 

Courtesy of NPR:

Many rural communities across the U.S. have resisted masks and calls for social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic, but now rural counties are experiencing record-high infection and death rates

Critically ill rural patients are often sent to city hospitals for high-level treatment, and as their numbers grow, some urban hospitals are buckling under the added strain.

Kansas City has a mask mandate, but in many smaller communities nearby, masks aren’t required — or masking orders are routinely ignored. In the last few months, rural counties in both Kansas and Missouri have seen some of the highest rates of COVID-19 in the country.

At the same time, about three out of four counties in Kansas and Missouri don’t have a single intensive care unit bed, so when people from these places get critically ill, they’re sent to city hospitals.

A recent patient count at St. Luke’s Health System in Kansas City showed a quarter of COVID-19 patients had come from outside of the metro.

Two-thirds of the patients coming from rural areas need intensive care and stay in the hospital for an average of two weeks, says Dr. Marc Larsen, who leads COVID-19 treatment at St. Luke’s.

“Not only are we seeing an uptick in those patients in our hospital from the rural community, they are sicker when we get them because [doctors in smaller communities] are able to handle the less sick patients, and we get the sickest of the sick,” says Larsen.

Dr. Rex Archer, head of Kansas City’s health department, warns that capacity at the city’s 33 hospitals is being put at risk by the influx of rural patients.

And this is absolutely not only happening in Kansas City.

Courtesy of the Star Tribune:

From Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids to Rice Memorial Hospital in Willmar to Regions, ICU beds are filling as quickly as they are opening up. Statewide, 79% of available ICU beds are filled, and 26% filled with COVID-19 patients.

The state’s capacity of open ICU beds has declined about one percentage point per day the past two weeks — raising the probability that some of the 408 ICU surge beds might need to be activated in unused hospital and nursing home wings.

“There’s no beds anywhere,” said Dr. Matthew Klee, whose ICU at Mercy is full and under pressure to take patients throughout Minnesota and western Wisconsin. “It’s become like a game of chess over the entire state.”

At one point this month, 30 people were in the Regions ER waiting for inpatient admission due to lack of beds.

Deferrals of noncritical surgeries and efforts to send stable COVID-19 patients home with monitoring have helped but “it’s still not enough,” said Dr. Kurt Isenberger, a HealthPartners ER physician and critical care researcher. “We are still seeing bed delays for patients in our emergency department.”

Then there is this from Utah.

Courtesy of the Salt Lake Tribune

With a combination of luck, new hires and creative reorganizing of staff and patients, Utah’s hospitals haven’t had to eject anyone from intensive care units due to the coronavirus.

But several doctors say the solutions still amount to rationing, with the quality of care deteriorating as hospitals are stretched thinner and thinner.

And with record numbers of new patients being admitted every day, they say the breaking point is all but inevitable. Utah reported 3,395 new cases on Saturday and set a new record with 551 patients hospitalized — and those mostly are from diagnoses a week or two ago, when cases were lower.

“What keeps me awake at night is that we have not felt the admissions of the 4,000-patient-a-day caseloads. We’re going to feel that in the next week or so. But our hospital already is at 100% capacity,” said Dr. Sean Callahan, a University of Utah pulmonologist and critical care physician who oversees the hospital’s respiratory therapists.

I cannot stress enough the importance of staying home this holiday season. 

That also means keeping people outside of your bubble away from you until we get past the new year at least. 

It is not only that you yourself, or somebody you love, might get sick. 

It is that there may not be medical care available if that happens.  

As it stands we are all on the frontline in the fight against this pandemic, and the best defense we have is to protect ourselves, and those we love, is through self-isolation.