Two of these states – Maryland and Virginia – have declared public health emergencies or authorised crisis standards of care, enabling hospitals and ambulances to restrict treatment when they cannot meet demand.
In President Joe Biden’s home state of Delaware hospitals are over capacity, have suspended elected surgeries and, in some cases, been forced to treat patients in hospital hallways.
Kenneth Silverstein, chief physician executive of the state’s largest health system ChritianaCare, told the Washington Post: “There’s nothing mild about omicron. It’s overrunning our hospital, and it’s outstripping our ability to provide care such that we have to alter our standards. We are seeing sick patients, and we are seeing a lot of them.”
But while these eight states may be outliers in terms of hitting record highs in all three areas, many other states are also seeing hospitalisation rates at higher levels than previous peaks, including Michigan, Illinois, Vermont and Pennsylvania.
The difference in how omicron is playing out in the UK and the United States is foxing even some of the brightest scientific minds. Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, questioned why the two waves seem to be different on either side of the Atlantic.
“Is it reporting differences, demographics, vaccine uptake and timing or immunity?” he tweeted earlier this week.
Experts point to several reasons for the wave of patients. As has already been seen in the UK and other parts of Europe, the sheer numbers of people getting sick with omicron will inevitably see numbers of patients in hospital rise.
“In places where omicron is taking off, hospitalisations are rapidly rising too. This reflects that people are still progressing to needing acute care and that the sheer number of people infected is so large,” Dr Natalie Dean, an assistant professor of biostatistics at Emory University in the US, told the Telegraph. “This all puts enormous pressure on the healthcare system.”