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Surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations threatens healthcare systems and the holidays

Alex Paul, WTIU/WFIU News

COVID-19 hospitalizations this week reached levels not seen since January, when vaccines were in extremely limited supply. The more contagious delta variant is fueling the surge that pushed the number of Hoosiers hospitalized with the virus past 2,700. More than 95 percent of the state’s new cases are caused by the delta variant. 

Eighty new deaths from the virus were reported on Wednesday alone. 

While the vast majority of those hospitalized were unvaccinated, there’s growing concern a high number of cases could fuel even more infections as the holiday season approaches.  

Dr. Josh Cullison, the medical director for rural health clinics at Greene County General Hospital, encourages those who remain unvaccinated to reevaluate their plans. 

“No matter what I say, no matter what anybody says on TV, people are going to gather,” he said. “Unvaccinated people are going to gather (and) vaccinated people are going to gather.”

Cullison believes it is “not my place to tell you to cancel your holiday plans,” he said. “That's not what I'm trying to do. I just want you to understand the risk.”

But he admits his family has skipped functions with large numbers of people who chose not to be vaccinated. 

Numerous health officials echo Cullison’s concern. Many admit they’re burnt out.  

After months of easily available vaccines, 53.6 percent of eligible Hoosiers remain unvaccinated.  

Just over four in ten Hoosiers 16 and older are fully vaccinated, according to the Indiana Department of Health’s vaccine dashboard.

Plus, with the high number of current cases and increased holiday travel, officials warn this surge could rival last year’s.