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Rising respiratory illnesses have local hospitals warning of a 'bed crisis'

With much of the nation in the grips of a "triple-demic," we verify how bad the situation is locally.

WASHINGTON — Like much of the nation, our area is seeing a surge in respiratory viruses following two years of mask wearing and social distancing.

 The impact is taking over area hospitals. 


 How many hospital beds remain available and just how at-risk is our area?



Beds at many local hospitals are at or near capacity.


Coming out of the pandemic, many hospital systems remain stretched. With a wave of flu and RSV cases hitting pediatric units, area hospitals are at the limit. 

“Around one to two weeks ago, hit a peak that was higher than the peak of patients that we saw at the peak of COVID,” Dr. Sam Elgawly of Inova Health System explained. "Right now this is all just non-COVID-type patients...I do expect (through the winter) we're going to be in this constant kind of bed crunch type situation." 

Nationwide, almost 79% of the country’s inpatient beds are full and 75% of ICU beds are in use.

In our region, D.C., Maryland and Virginia are all in the "very high" level for flu transmission

As for hospital beds, in Maryland it's the most dire, with 100% of inpatient beds in use,  and 70% of the ICU full. That's up from 81% and 68% on Nov. 15.

In the District, nearly 84% of inpatient beds are in use and 80% of the ICU beds.

As for Virginia, patients are in 3 out of 4 hospital beds. 

Elgawly warns of a bed crisis.

Pretty much that we're at 100% capacity. And ER beds are being used actually, as almost admitted beds holding patients,” he said. 

Children’s National Hospital in D.C. confirmed in a statement that they too are at or near capacity.

"Like hospitals around the country, we are seeing a significant increase in emergency department visits and admissions to our hospital. This is due in part to a spike in viral respiratory infections, including RSV and flu," the statement reads. "We anticipate our hospital volumes will remain near capacity in the near future."

National pediatric organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics are pleading for the Biden administration to declare an emergency, writing, “without immediate attention the crisis will only worsen. Across the country, more than three-quarters of pediatric hospital beds are full, and many states are reporting more than 90% of their pediatric beds are occupied."

HHS told WUSA9 in a statement they “have offered jurisdictions support” and are available to “help on a case-by-case basis.” 

Dr. Elgawly offered the following tips to help assuage the influx of hospital room patients:

"The best thing that we can do as a community to help the health system...(is)  within our comfort level, be as judicious as possible in deciding what makes us go to the emergency room," he said. "Come to the emergency room truly, if you feel like it's an emergency and you need the emergency room. Otherwise, please utilize doctors offices, urgent care, things like that." 

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