On Sunday, every one of Clark County’s 15-20 ICU beds were full as the Delta variant of COVID-19 surged in the U.S.
That doesn’t mean that there’s no room for people who need intensive care, said Clark County Health Officer Dr. Eric Yazel. But, it does mean that people who would normally be in the ICU are staying in emergency rooms and post-op recovery rooms, potentially slowing response times for other people in the area who are dangerously ill.
“As we continue to climb, we just want to relay out there that, you know, that trickle down effect is going to effect to everybody, and wait times for emergency department visits are going to be really long, EMS response times are going to be slow or just all those things,” he said.
Another consequence of full ICUs is that Clark County can’t accept patient transfers as easily now. And its beds are more in demand than they were before the pandemic.
“I mean, we’re getting calls from a couple states away in some of our area hospitals of people looking for ICU beds,” Yazel said.
The impact is felt in close-by hospitals, as well: Scott Memorial Health in Scott County often sends ICU patients to Clark County, said Yazel.
Clark County is currently in Indiana’s orange COVID advisory level. It’s seeing 426 weekly cases per 100,000 residents and has a 12.6% seven-day positivity rate.
Yazel anticipates the situation in Clark County getting worse if COVID case counts rise, but he’s seen some positive statistics throughout this wave of coronavirus cases: Among them, ventilator use is declining.
“Back when it first hit, they would text me every day of how many ventilators we had in use,” he said. “I mean, there was some times where I was like, ‘My gosh, we have a bad day, I don’t know what we’re gonna do.’”
The length of stay for COVID patients is also declining in Clark County.
During the “first wave” of COVID, patients were staying an average of 12 to 14 days in the hospital. Now, they’re out in three to five.
This, said Yazel, is a result of improvements in care for COVID patients.
The improvement in turnover has changed the conversation in Clark County about what to do if beds continue to fill.
“We had field hospitals evaluated and identified and ready to flex up during the first wave,” he said. “We’ve had none of those kinds of discussions, and we’ll be fine.”