As ICU Beds Fill Up, Mass. Health Officials Brace for Post-Christmas COVID Surge

Officials are working to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed as coronavirus cases climb in Massachusetts and nationwide

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Intensive care units at Boston-area hospitals are filling up as the coronavirus pandemic rages.

Overall, hospitals are seeing an average fill-rate of 70% in their ICUs. But it's higher at some than others.

ICU occupancy last week was over 83% at Lawrence General Hospital, over 86% at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, and 93% at Massachusetts General Hospital.

"A good amount of them are COVID, but we also are seeing a lot of folks who do not have COVID, but are very ill, as well," said Dr. Jarone Lee, an ICU specialist at MGH. "More so than usual."

Lee says many patients delayed getting care because of the pandemic.

"It's folks who have symptoms of heart attack or stroke or anything else, but I think they might be a little scared of coming, and so they might have delayed coming in," he explained.

He says the hospital can add more ICU beds, and with a COVID-19 surge expected after the holidays, it may be necessary.

Boston Health and Human Services Chief Marty Martinez says as of Thursday, Boston hospitals had 389 coronavirus patients, the most since June.

They are keeping a close eye on the numbers to avoid getting into a situation similar to what's happening in the Midwest right now.

Dr. William Hanage, a Harvard epidemiologist, points to the Dakotas.

"They've been getting to the point there were really horrific critical decisions," he said. "Who's going to be given a hospital bed and who's going to be sent home to die."

We aren't at that point, but health experts and community leaders are watching the numbers closely as we go through the holidays, with a spike in infections expected in January.

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