The daily average for hospitalized Covid-19 patients in the United States is now more than 100,000. That average, calculated over the last seven days, is higher than in any previous surge except last winter’s, before most Americans were eligible to get vaccinated.
The influx of patients is straining hospitals and pushing health care workers to the brink as deaths have risen to an average of more than 1,000 a day for the first time since March.
Hospitalizations nationwide have increased by nearly 500 percent in the past two months, particularly across Southern states, where I.C.U. beds are filling up, a crisis fueled by some of the country’s lowest vaccination rates and widespread political opposition to public health measures like mask requirements.
In Florida, 16,457 people are hospitalized, the most of any state, followed by Texas, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
With the surge pummeling the nation and overwhelming hospitals, a shortage of bedside nurses has complicated efforts to treat hospitalized coronavirus patients, leading to longer emergency room waiting times and rushed or inadequate care.
This month, one in five American I.C.U.s had reached or exceeded 95 percent of beds full. Alabama was one of the first states to run out, and the crisis is concentrated in the South, with small pockets of high occupancy elsewhere in the country. As cases and hospitalizations surged, the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville on Thursday requested assistance from the National Guard.
“I’ve never seen anything quite like it,” said Dr. Shannon Byrd, a pulmonologist in Knoxville, who described local hospitals filled to capacity, noting that the vast majority of I.C.U. patients in the region were unvaccinated. “It’s bringing whole families down and tearing families apart. They’re dying in droves and leaving surviving loved ones with a lot of funerals to go to.”
As in previous surges, hospitals have been forced to expand capacity by creating makeshift I.C.U.s in areas typically reserved for other types of care, and even in hallways or spare rooms. Experts say maintaining existing standards of care for the sickest patients may be difficult or impossible at hospitals with more than 95 percent I.C.U. occupancy.
Hard-hit communities in Oregon and elsewhere are asking for mobile morgues to store the dead.
Dr. Ijlal Babar, the director of pulmonary critical care for the Singing River Health System in coastal Mississippi, said the influx of mostly unvaccinated, younger Covid-19 patients was hampering care across the system’s hospitals.
“Because a lot of these patients are lingering on, the ventilators are occupied, the beds are occupied,” he said. “And a lot of other patients who need health care, we can’t do those things, because we don’t have the I.C.U. beds, we don’t have the nurses, we don’t have the ventilators.”
Like many health care workers, Dr. Babar voiced frustration at the refusal of many residents to get inoculated, even after they had lost an unvaccinated family member to the virus.
“The families, you don’t see them going out and talking about the benefits of vaccine,” he said. “Nobody brings it up, nobody expresses any remorse. It’s just something that they absolutely do not believe in.”
The Australian state of New South Wales on Monday reported its highest daily number of coronavirus cases since the pandemic began, as infections driven by the Delta variant continued to surge and millions remained in lockdown.
New South Wales, the country’s most populous state, reported 1,290 cases, and the authorities said that they expected infections and intensive-care hospitalizations to continue to rise until peaking in October.
“Our hospital system is under pressure,” Gladys Berejiklian, the premier of New South Wales, told reporters in Sydney, the state capital and a city of more than five million people. “We will need to manage things differently.”
Ms. Berejiklian added that vaccination was the key to increasing freedoms and reducing the spread of the virus.
Victoria, the country’s second-most populous state, reported 73 new cases of the virus. Melbourne, the state capital, is now in its sixth lockdown, making it among the most locked-down places in the world. Combined, the lockdowns have lasted more than 200 days.
“We’re in a very challenging position right now,” Victoria’s chief health officer, Brett Sutton, told reporters in Melbourne on Monday.
As the outbreak has grown, so, too, have concerns that Australia’s vulnerable Indigenous population could be disproportionately affected.
An Aboriginal man in his 50s became the first Indigenous person to die of Covid-19, in Western New South Wales, a spokeswoman for the local health district confirmed on Monday.
Though Australia is battling its most severe outbreak so far, daily cases are still relatively low compared with those in many other countries. Four people per 100,000 are becoming sickened per day with the coronavirus in Australia. In the United States, that figure is 47, according to data from The New York Times.
For now, international borders and some state borders in Australia remain closed, but some airlines have begun preparing to reopen. On Monday, Virgin Australia announced that it planned to require all its staff to be vaccinated by March.
In other developments around the globe:
The Zhangjiajie Hehua International Airport, in Hunan Province, China, resumed flights on Monday after being shut down for a month to contain an outbreak of the Delta variant. As cases spread over the country in the past two months, the authorities locked down several cities, requiring several million residents to stay home and participate in rounds of testing.
The government of South Korea announced on Monday plans to hand out a fifth round of Covid-19 emergency relief funds, this time to people in the bottom 88 percent of the nation’s income bracket. The packages of up to $215 per person will be distributed starting early next week and must be used by the end of this year. Recipients can use the money for food or other necessities, but not at department stores or entertainment facilities or on delivery apps.
The authorities in New Zealand reported what could be the country’s first Pfizer vaccine-related death: A woman died of myocarditis, an inflammation in the heart muscle, shortly after receiving her shot. According to New Zealand’s Covid-19 Vaccine Independent Safety Monitoring Board, myocarditis is a rare side effect of the Pfizer vaccine. Although the cause of death has not been confirmed by the coroner, a news release by officials stated that this “is the first case in New Zealand where a death in the days following vaccination has been linked to the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine.”
Tiffany Mayand Jin Yu Young contributed reporting.
Prescriptions for ivermectin, a drug typically used to treat parasitic worms that has repeatedly failed in clinical trials to help people infected with the coronavirus, have risen sharply in recent weeks, jumping to more than 88,000 per week in mid-August from a prepandemic average of 3,600 per week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Ivermectin was introduced as a veterinary drug in the late 1970s, and the discovery of its effectiveness in combating certain parasitic diseases in humans won the 2015 Nobel Prize for medicine.
Though it has not been shown to be effective in treating Covid-19, people are now clamoring to get the drug, trading tips in Facebook groups and on Reddit. Some physicians have compared the phenomenon to last year’s surge of interest in hydroxychloroquine, though there are more clinical trials evaluating ivermectin.
While sometimes given to humans in small doses for head lice, scabies and other parasites, ivermectin is more commonly used in animals. Physicians are raising alarms about a growing number of people getting the drug from livestock supply centers, where it can come in highly concentrated paste or liquid forms.
Calls to poison control centers about ivermectin exposures have risen significantly, jumping fivefold over their baseline in July, according to C.D.C. researchers, who cited data from the American Association of Poison Control Centers. Mississippi’s health department said this month that 70 percent of recent calls to the state poison control center had come from people who ingested ivermectin from livestock supply stores.