Alaska’s hospitals, overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, are having to 'ration care': report

Alaska’s hospitals, overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, are having to 'ration care': report

In the U.S., red states tend to have lower COVID-19 vaccination rates than blue states — and in undervaccinated Alaska, according to Guardian reporter Melody Schreiber, hospitals that are being overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients are having to ration care.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that 75% of U.S.-based adults have been at least partially vaccinated for the COVID-19 coronavirus. But vaccination rates can vary considerably from state to state in the United States. According to the Mayo Clinic, 57% of Alaska adults have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine — compared to 78% in Vermont and 77% in Massachusetts. Vermont and Massachusetts are deep blue states with moderate Republican governors; Alaska, where the far-right Sarah Palin once served as governor, is very much a red state.

Schreiber, in an article published by The Guardian on October 7, explains, "Rural areas across the United States are in crisis as COVID-19 overwhelms some hospitals, but the situation is especially dire in Alaska, which has the highest U.S. rate of COVID cases and recently turned to emergency measures to allow the rationing of healthcare at 20 medical centers across the state. Alaska's health system, stretched by enormous distances and limited resources, was precarious before the pandemic hit — and now, remote communities are worried they will have nowhere to send their sickest patients."

The journalist adds, "One in 84 people in Alaska was diagnosed with COVID-19 in the last week of September alone. On Monday, (October 4), the state reported 2290 cases and one death over the course of three days. Less than two-thirds of eligible Alaskans are fully vaccinated, and the entire state is on high alert for significant spread of the coronavirus."

COVID-19 was first reported in Wuhan, China in December 2019. And according to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, it has killed more than 4.8 million people worldwide — including over 707,000 in the United States, which has the world's highest COVID-19 death count.

Carol Austerman, chief executive officer of Alaska's Kodiak Community Health Center, told The Guardian that Kodiak has had to send some patients "all the way to Seattle" and that her worst fear is "to lose a patient because we can't find a place to send them."

Schreiber notes that in Anchorage, a doctor "had to choose between several patients vying for the same open bed in the intensive care unit, including the resident of a rural community who would have flown in for emergency surgery."

"After careful deliberation," Schreiber reports, "the medical team decided one of the other patients would be more likely to survive — and the rural resident died."

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