The CDC director warns that US hospitals are ‘filled with unvaccinated people,’ and some are running out of both ventilators and beds

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci testify before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee July 20, 2021 on Capitol Hill
CDC director Rochelle Walensky testifying before the Senate on July 20. J. Scott Applewhite-Pool/via Getty Images
  • Healthcare systems in some parts of the US are in “dire straits,” CDC director Rochelle Walensky said.
  • “Our hospitals are filled with unvaccinated people,” she told CBS.
  • Staff are having to make tough decisions over who gets ventilators and ICU beds, Walensky said.
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Healthcare systems in some parts of the US are in “dire straits” as unvaccinated people fill up hospitals, Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday.

Some parts of the US are using “crisis standards of care” and are running out of hospital beds, Walensky said.

“That means that we are talking about who is going to get a ventilator, who is going to get an ICU bed,” she said.

“Those are not easy discussions to have, and that is not a place we want our health care system to ever be,” she said.

She was worried that people who need treatment for vehicle accidents or heart attacks “may not be able to come in and get the proper care,” she said.

“That is why we are working so hard in areas that have high levels of disease where their healthcare systems are in dire straits,” she said.

Between September 18 and 24, US hospitals admitted a daily average of nearly 9,000 patients with the coronavirus, per CDC data. This is much lower than in early January, when the seven-day average peaked at 16,489.

But Walensky warned that hospitals were filling up with patients who hadn’t been vaccinated against the coronavirus. “Our hospitals are filled with unvaccinated people,” she said.

Her comments came as the highly infectious Delta variant continues to spread across the US. The variant is causing so-called “breakthrough infections” among vaccinated people, but data shows vaccines still protect against severe COVID-19.

Kaiser Health News reported on Wednesday that a hospital in Montana had so many unvaccinated COVID-19 patients that it was at 160% capacity and was “running out of hallways” to treat patients in.

Earlier in September, a hospital in Idaho said that it might have to place some COVID-19 patients in conference rooms because there were so few hospital beds.

A CDC study earlier this month found that unvaccinated Americans were 11 times more likely to die from COVID-19. Two-thirds of adults in the US have had two doses of a coronavirus vaccine, but 23% haven’t had their first dose yet, per CDC data.

President Joe Biden is urging Americans to get vaccinated, and has announced plans to mandate vaccines or weekly testing at companies with more than 100 employees.

Daily COVID-19 cases across the US are currently falling after a surge in cases in late August and early September, CDC data shows.

Insider’s Aria Bendix previously reported on a new model by researchers that suggests US COVID-19 cases and deaths aren’t likely to climb higher between now and March, though the model suggested hospitals may still be strained in states with cold climates or low vaccination rates.