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Heavy strain on Delaware hospitals prompt efforts to get patients out of them


Delaware is experiencing higher strain on its hospitals than almost any other state with the latest spike in COVID-19 cases.

The number of patients with COVID in Delaware’s hospitals broke 600 for the first time Tuesday, with 602 hospitalizations, 72 of those considered critical.

And just like hospitals and other businesses around the country, a lack of staffing leaves workers struggling to take care of an increasing number of patients.

Gov. John Carney announced a State of Emergency this week, in order to mobilize around 100 National Guard members to be trained as certified nursing assistants to alleviate these shortages.

“What the hospitals have asked us for is exactly what we’re providing, which is resources to help them decompress — meaning moving patients out who don’t belong in the hospital so that they can be in a more appropriate setting,” Carney says.

Moving hospital patients to places such as long term care facilities will help open up room in Delaware’s hospitals.

Delaware Emergency Management Agency director A.J. Schall says it's up to the state to help, as hospitals across the country face the same problems.

“There’s not many resources at the federal level to come in and save the day,” says Schall. “So that’s why we’re looking at what can we do with the National Guard here in Delaware; between training and thinking outside the box and assigning them to maybe non-traditional missions to help relax the hospitals a little bit.”

Schall says bringing in the National Guard along with other efforts such as relaxing licensing requirements for nurses is what he’s hoping will help keep hospitals from becoming overwhelmed.

Carney urges Delawareans to avoid seeking COVID tests at the emergency room, and only go to the hospital if it’s truly an emergency.

Public Health officials say Delawareans should continue to get vaccinated and boosted, and note almost three-quarters of those hospitalized are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated.

Roman Battaglia is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

Roman Battaglia grew up in Portland, Ore, and now reports for Delaware Public Media as a Report For America corps member. He focuses on politics, elections and legislation activity at the local, county and state levels.