Increase of COVID cases taking a toll on Mid-South hospitals

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The alarming increase of COVID cases in our community is taking a toll on Mid-South hospitals.

As of Friday morning, officials with Methodist Le Bonheur healthcare said only 12 ICU beds among its hospital are available.

Data from earlier this week showed just 47 ICU beds in the metro area, which includes Shelby, Tipton, Lauderdale, Crittenden and DeSoto counties.

RELATED: Mississippi health leaders recommend COVID-19 booster shots for high-risk groups

Doctors say this upward trend is upsetting because most of these cases could have been prevented.

“It’s a struggle mentally to see it rising,” Dr. John Eick said. “Everybody is honestly a little demoralized by it. We thought we were getting a taste of freedom from COVID earlier this summer. I would go weeks without taking care of a single covid patient here in the hospital.”

That feeling of freedom was short lived.

The number of hospitalizations across the Methodist Le Bonheur healthcare system have increased to 87, more than six times what is was just a month ago. Many of them are patients in their 20s or 30s.

“In the past week, I’ve had five COVID patients and only one of them was older than 50,” Dr. Eick said. “That would’ve been unheard of back at the beginning of this year and last year.”

At the height of hospital admissions in December 2020, infectious disease specialist Dr. Shirin Mazumder said the average age of admitted COVID patients at MLH was 61. It’s now dropped down to 51.

She said around 95 percent of those who are hospitalized are unvaccinated.

RELATED: Shelby County sees hundreds of COVID-19 breakthrough cases

“The only way to effectively stop the virus in its tracks is through vaccination. If we don’t have more members of our community getting vaccinated, the virus will continue to linger and replicate and mutate, and we might see more variants in the future,” Dr. Mazumder said.

Dr. Mazumder said she’s seeing a slight increase in fully vaccinated people contracting the virus, but those cases are almost always less severe.

“In general, as we see increased cases in our community, we will see some breakthrough infections,” she said. However, the main job of the vaccine is to keep people out of the hospital and from dying, and they do a really good job at that.”

With the start of school around the corner, both doctors encourage parents to get their kids vaccinated if they are old enough.

If they’re not, they strongly recommend those kids to wear masks in the classroom.