Covid-19 hospitalizations are on the rise again across the United States as more people become sickened with the highly contagious delta variant of the virus.
More than 100,000 people are hospitalized with Covid-19, according to data released Friday morning by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. That means 1 in every 6 hospital beds nationwide has a Covid patient, according to NBC News data.
New admissions of patients with confirmed Covid-19 cases are at their highest levels since the start of the pandemic for all age groups under 50 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In Nebraska, where 2,316 people have died of the virus and about 51 percent of the population is vaccinated, Gov. Pete Ricketts, a Republican, declared a hospital staffing emergency Thursday and said he would issue an executive order waiving licensing requirements to streamline credential authorizations for retired or inactive health care workers.
Ricketts said he would also defer continuing education requirements and suspend statutes regarding new health care providers seeking a license, among other provisions.
Several Nebraska hospitals have paused elective surgeries to preserve hospital capacity, according to NBC 6 in Omaha, Nebraska.
“Our best tool against the virus is getting vaccinated. Vaccines work. We’ve got lot of data from here in Nebraska,” Ricketts said. “They’re very effective at making sure you don’t get sick and keeping you out of the hospital and preventing those very severe reactions, including death.”
The number of people hospitalized has also surged in Kentucky, where 2,074 were in the hospital with Covid-19 as of Wednesday, compared with 239 on July 14, Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, said. About 48 percent of Kentuckians are vaccinated.
“Our hospitals are overrun, and we will see significant death moving forward,” he said during a news conference. “More people are in the hospital fighting Covid than ever before.”
Medical staff fear they won’t be able to assist patients if the cases continue to rise, Beshear said.
Also reversing a monthslong downward trend, Covid deaths are rising.
The U.S. reported more than 2,000 Covid-related deaths Thursday — the highest single-day total since early March, according to NBC News data.
The U.S. reported 8,541 deaths in July, the lowest monthly total since March 2020 when there were 3,767 deaths. So far in August, there have been 21,871 reported deaths, NBC News data shows.
“It’s been a big U-turn or going backwards. We were making a lot of progress earlier this year, and this has been a big setback,” said David Grabowski, a health care policy professor at Harvard Medical School. “We need to get as many Americans vaccinated as possible to limit the spread.”
He recommended Americans wear masks indoors and use rapid testing in schools and nursing homes.
Deon J. Hampton is a national reporter for NBC News, based in Cincinnati.