Governor says ‘I cannot emphasize enough the seriousness of this crisis’ as Texas and Florida make up 40% of US hospitalizations
As the Delta variant continued to rip through regions of the US, Oregon’s governor said she would send up to 1,500 national guard troops to help hospital workers pushed to the brink by a surge of cases, while the White House announced that Texas and Florida alone accounted for almost 40% of new US Covid hospitalizations last week.
Democrat Kate Brown said troops would be sent to 20 hospitals around the state. Seven hundred and thirty-three 733 people were hospitalized in Oregon as of Friday, including 185 people in intensive care units – 60 more than a day before and nearly double the figure of two weeks ago.
Brown said: “I cannot emphasize enough the seriousness of this crisis for all Oregonians, especially those needing emergency and intensive care. When our hospitals are full with Covid-19 patients, there may not be room for someone needing care after a car crash, a heart attack, or other emergency situation.”
In the deep south states of Louisiana and Mississippi, among the lowest vaccinated populations in the country, hospitals reached capacity this week as deaths began to climb and health officials warned the crisis would deepen into next week.
Just seven states, including Alabama, Arkansas and Missouri, accounted for about half of Covid hospitalizations in the US despite making up about a quarter of the population, according to the White House coronavirus taskforce coordinator, Jeff Zients.
All seven states have vaccination rates well below the national average.
In Oregon, the Delta variant now makes up 96% of all samples tested, up from just 15% six weeks ago, according to state data.
Brown, the governor, said: “The harsh, and frustrating reality is that the Delta variant has changed everything.”
During remarks on Thursday, Joe Biden praised frontline healthcare workers battling surging Covid patient populations.
“You know, our healthcare workers are heroes,” the president said. “They were the heroes when there was no vaccine. Many of them gave their lives trying to save others. And they’re heroes again with a vaccine. They’re doing their best to care for the people refusing to get vaccinated, unvaccinated folks who are being hospitalized and dying as a result of not being vaccinated.”
The comments came as the federal government authorized third doses of the Pfizer and Moderna Covid vaccines for certain people with weakened immune systems, while assuring that the vast majority of people who had received two shots were still fully protected. The move follows similar announcements in France, Germany and Israel.
Roughly 2.7% of US adults are immunocompromised, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including those who are organ transplant recipients, certain cancer patients and those with HIV.
“Today’s action allows doctors to boost immunity in certain immunocompromised individuals who need extra protection from Covid-19. As we’ve previously stated, other individuals who are fully vaccinated are adequately protected and do not need an additional dose of Covid-19 vaccine at this time,” said the acting Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner, Dr Janet Woodcock.
Despite the Delta variant crisis, the Biden administration has found itself in an escalating war of words with some Republican state leaders, who have sought to ban mask-wearing in the areas most affected by rising cases.
The Florida governor, Ron De Santis, an ardent conservative who has sought to falsely link the rise in Covid cases with immigration at the US southern border, has issued a statewide order banning masks despite the surging cases and has threatened to financially penalise local school leaders if they seek to impose their own mandates.
In turn, the Biden administration has said it is exploring ways to compensate any schools that implement mandates, amid pushback from some of the largest school districts in the state.
On Thursday, Biden addressed the issue head on during his remarks and stated: “To the mayors, school superintendents, educators, local leaders who are standing up to the governors politicizing mask protection for our kids – thank you … Thank God that we have heroes like you, and I stand with you all.”
The Associated Press contributed reporting