Oregon COVID-19 patient unable to get ICU bed dies

Hospitals across the country are being pushed to the brink again.

A southern Oregon hospital has been pushed to the brink by COVID-19.

CHI Mercy Health announced on Thursday that amid the "onslaught" of new cases and hospitalizations brought on by COVID-19, including highly contagious variants like delta, a patient waiting for a bed in the intensive care unit died. It's a scenario playing out in hospitals across the U.S.

"This moment, we pause," the hospital said in a Facebook post. "A COVID-positive patient was in our Emergency Department, within our four walls, waiting for an open intensive care unit bed to receive life-saving care. It had been several hours because other COVID-positive patients had filled those beds. Even after expanding ICU care onto other floors, there weren't any beds available for this patient. We didn't have enough."

COVID-19 cases throughout the state have grown in recent weeks amid the spread of the delta variant, which by the beginning of August, had accounted for an estimated 99% of total samples sequenced, compared with only 30% in late June, according to the Oregon Health Authority. The state reported 2,971 new cases on Thursday, 845 hospitalizations and 19 deaths.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has been sounding the alarm on the growing crisis and taking steps to try to reduce the spread of COVID-19, including reinstating an indoor mask requirement just six weeks after it had been lifted, deploying 1,500 National Guard troops to support health workers and requesting help from out-of-state health workers.

On Thursday, she also announced new vaccination requirements for Oregon health care and K-12 staff, saying during a press conference that ICU beds statewide were 93% full.

"Our health care system is on the verge of collapse in parts of the state," Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen said during the press conference.

Health officials from Douglas County, where the hospital is located, said they had more COVID-19 cases last week than in the first 8 1/2 months of the pandemic.

"Until this surge, Douglas county has had a very low rate. For several weeks we had the lowest rates of disease for counties over 100,000 in the nation," health officials told ABC News via email. "This surge is far greater than anything we have seen previously. "

Representatives for CHI Mercy Health, in which the hospital is located, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In many cases across the country, the surge in cases -- and the subsequent pressure on hospitals -- has been spurred in part by the delta variant but also by low vaccination rates.

In Houston last weekend, nearly 600 COVID-19 patients were waiting for general hospital beds, while hospitals that had beds faced a scarcity of nurses to help care for patients. Only 55% of Texans are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Louisiana, which is currently facing the highest COVID-19 rates in the nation, hospital admissions have surged more than 340% over the last seven weeks, with the state's total COVID-19 hospitalizations coming in at over 3,000.

"We are getting crushed in our emergency rooms," said Dr. John Michael Cuba, a service line chairman of emergency medicine at Ochsner Health in Baton Rouge. "If somebody is coming in today with a heart attack, there is a wait -- something we aren't accustomed to, or comfortable with. But it's just overwhelming."

COVID-19 patients who hadn't been fully vaccinated in Louisiana accounted for 89% of cases and 80% of deaths for the first two weeks of August, and 91% of current COVID-19 hospitalizations, according to the Louisiana Department of Health.

Of the 59 COVID-19 patients who were hospitalized Wednesday in Douglas County, 51 had not been vaccinated, according to the Douglas County Board of Commissioners. Just under 50% of the people in the county ages 18 and above had received at least one dose of the vaccine by mid-August, compared to about 71% of Oregon's total population.

"Overwhelmingly, the Oregonians who are being hospitalized or who are dying from COVID-19 are unvaccinated," Brown said.

In its statement on Thursday, CHI Mercy Health acknowledged the impact of the COVID-19 surge on its staff, saying, "This is very real to our physicians, clinicians, housekeepers and each member of our Mercy family. Today, we paused, we reset and we tried to move forward mentally and physically for our own well being and serving our most vulnerable, sick patients within our walls."