The COVID-19 comeback across the U.S. is putting pressure on hospitals at a time when some of them are busy just trying to catch up on surgeries and other procedures that were put on hold during the pandemic.

With the highly contagious delta variant spreading rapidly, cases in the U.S. are up around 70% over the last week, hospital admissions have climbed about 36% and deaths rose by 26%, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.

Some hospitals are reporting record or near-record patient volumes. But even for those that aren’t, this round of the pandemic is proving tougher in some ways, hospital and health officials said. Staff members are worn out, and finding traveling nurses to boost their ranks can be tough.


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“I really think of it as a war and how long can you stay on the front line,” said Dr. Mark Rosenberg, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians. “And how many times do you want to go back for another tour of duty. Eventually you just don’t want to do it.”

Also, many hospitals were busy even before the surge began, dealing with a backlog of cancer screenings, operations and other procedures that were put off during the winter surge to free up space and staff members, according to health care leaders.

“Eventually you have to pay the piper, and those things have now built up,” said Dr. James Lawler of the Global Center for Health Security at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. The fear now at some hospitals is that they will have to postpone non-COVID-19 care again — and risk the potential health consequences for patients. MORE

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