What We’re Reading: Delta Variant Accounts for 98.8% of Cases; Elective Surgeries on Pause; Racial Health Care Inequities Persist

Some hospitals may revisit crisis standards of care; Florida hospitals to pause elective surgeries; studies find nearly a quarter of Black Americans with low incomes report fair or poor health care.

Delta Variant Accounts for More than 98.8% of US COVID-19 Cases

The CDC said Tuesday that more than 98.8% of COVID-19 cases in the United States are due to the delta variant, USA Today reported. This was announced as the number of US cases since the start of the pandemic reached 37 million, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. In every state, at least 50% of those eligible have received at least 1 dose of a vaccine, and some states have more than 80% of their eligible population fully vaccinated. States in the South and Southwest have been hit hardest by the delta variant, with hospitals in New Mexico reportedly being a month or less away from revisiting crisis standards of care, and some smaller Tennessee hospitals considering triaging patient care based on chance of survival.

COVID-19 Leads to Pause on Elective Surgeries in Some States

As a result of the surge in COVID-19 cases—and expectations that cases will continue to rise—some hospitals are pausing elective surgeries to avoid staffing and resource shortages. STAT News reports that the number of patients with COVID-19 increased 10-fold at 14 BayCare Health System hospitals in Florida this past month, leading to a pause that will start Saturday. Many hospitals, including Ben Taub Hospital in Houston, have already paused procedures while others are postponing surgeries on a case-by-case basis. Hospitals in larger health systems may transfer patients to other hospitals within their network, but that is unlikely in COVID hot spots such as Florida and Texas.

Racial Health Care Inequities Persist

Despite expanded access to health care and insurance, racial inequities remain, The New York Times reported. According to a series of studies published in JAMA Network, the racial health gap largely persisted in some subgroups, but slightly improved in others between 1999 and 2018. In 1999, 18% of Black Americans rated their health as fair or poor. In 2018, 24.9% Black Americans with low incomes gave the same rating, having the highest estimated prevalence of fair or poor health in the United States. According to the studies, disparities were also seen among individuals from different racial and ethnic backgrounds covered by the same insurance program.