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These are the People Filling Up ICUs, Say Experts

"This is completely preventable," says Dr. Dailey.

Omicron COVID cases are starting to crest nationwide. In some areas, they've dropped sharply from the record numbers seen last month. But in many areas, hospital systems are still under stress. Experts emphasize that it's important to continue practicing safety precautions so emergency care can still be provided to those who need it—COVID isn't the only serious health issue that befalls Americans, and in some places, hospitals are dangerously close to capacity. These are the people who are currently filling ICUs, according to experts. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


90% of ICU Patients Unvaccinated in This Hospital

Patient refuses to take vaccination.

On Feb. 1, the San Francisco Chronicle visited Salinas County Memorial Hospital, where 10 people with COVID were in the ICU. None were protected by vaccination. "Doctors say that about 90% of critically ill COVID patients are unvaccinated," the paper reported.

"The rest are usually transplant patients or have other conditions — obesity and diabetes most commonly — that make them especially vulnerable." 

"This is completely preventable," said Dr. Thomas Dailey, a pulmonary and critical care specialist with Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara. "This is an epidemic among the unvaccinated."


Trend Has Been Going on For Months

Portrait of doctor with face mask and clipboard looking at camera in hospital.

The trend of unvaccinated COVID patients packing ICUs has been going on for months. In mid-November, MLive reported that in Michigan's Spectrum Health system, 94% of COVID patients in the ICU were unvaccinated. Additionally, in people who needed intensive care for COVID, the average age was 75 in the vaccinated and only 50 in the unvaccinated. 

"Predominantly, the people who get sickest from this infection are unvaccinated," said Dr. Liam Sullivan, a Spectrum infectious disease specialist. The statistics are "really striking," he added.


Nearly All Younger ICU Patients Unvaccianted

Teenage boy sick in bed with Covid-19 symptoms

Additionally, a study released last month found that nearly all teenagers who were in ICUs with COVID were unvaccinated. According to research published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine prevented 94 percent of hospitalizations in that population and was 98 percent effective at keeping patients out of intensive care (ICU) or from requiring life support. 


Half of Hospitalizations Could Have Been Prevented With Vaccination

Nurse taking blood sample from young female patient in the background. Selective focus on sample tube.

On the latest episode of his podcast, virus expert Dr. Michael Osterholm echoed the analysis of the COVID in the U.S. as "a pandemic of the unvaccinated."

Recent CDC data shows:

  • Unvaccinated people over 65 are 52 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID than people who are vaccinated and boosted
  • Unvaccinated people between age 50 and 64 are 46 times more likely to be hospitalized than the vaccinated and boosted

And a different study found that half of this winter's COVID hospitalizations could have been prevented if Americans had been vaccinated at the same rates as residents of major European countries.


"From Hope to Indifference"

Doctors wearing face masks transporting patient in hospital bed. medicine, health and healthcare services during coronavirus covid 19 pandemic.

The World Health Organization's Health In Europe podcast spoke with Laura Lupi, a nurse on the frontlines who has observed a move "from hope to indifference….as selfishness and arrogance took over as a feeling so much, so that they made people deny the evidence, deny the existence of COVID 19 and deny its danger despite the images that passed every day on television."

"This is very unfortunate because COVID continues to exist, continues to take victims and continues to create discomfort. People just don't seem to care anymore." She too has seen that ICUs are mainly populated with people who have refused the vaccine. "While there were ICU departments dedicated to COVID 19, now they are less busy," said Lupi. "They mainly work with unvaccinated people."


How to Stay Safe Out There

A mid adult woman protects herself by placing an N95 face mask over her nose and mouth.

Follow the fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more about Michael
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