After weeks of watching numbers decline, Indiana hospitals are beginning to fill their intensive care unit beds again, due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The percentage of available ICU beds across the state has fallen from a high of 52% on July 23 to low 30s in recent days, according to figures provided daily by the Indiana State Department of Health.
On August 4, only 32.3% of Indiana’s 2,192 ICU beds were available. That number has rebounded slightly in recent days, to 38.6% on Monday.
Part of the reason for the falling available capacity is because hospitals deactivated some of their ICU beds, shrinking the inventory. In the early weeks of the pandemic, hospitals were converting whole floors—and in some cases, whole wings of patient towers—to ICU beds.
On April 25, Indiana hospitals had a total ICU capacity of 3,312 beds. But, as of Sunday, that number had fallen by nearly one-third, to 2,265. That occurred as some hospitals quietly put those beds back into general use.
Still, that means that as the number of positive cases of COVID-19 continues to climb, there are fewer beds overall to handle the most serious cases. The number of positive cases across Indiana has spiked in recent days. Over four consecutive days, from Thursday to Sunday, the state health department reported more than 1,000 new cases of COVID-19 each day, including a record 1,253 cases on Friday.
The health department on Monday reported 673 new COVID-19 cases, ending a four-day streak in which cases have topped 1,000. Case counts typically fall in Monday’s report because of slowed weekend reporting.
The number of overall hospitalizations from COVID-19 has climbed in recent weeks, from a low of 595 on June 26 to 921 on Sunday. Those numbers include positive cases of COVID-19 and patients under investigation for the disease.
Some parts of the state are facing a crunch of ICU beds. Northeast Indiana is nearing capacity, according to WBOI 89.1-FM in Fort Wayne, which reported on Thursday that only 2.2% of ICU beds in that region were available. That part of the state is known as District 3, according to the state health department.
In central Indiana, District 5, 42.5% of ICU beds were available as of the state’s report on Monday, down from a high of 62.7% availability on July 23.
Central Indiana is home to several of the state’s largest hospitals, including Methodist, St. Vincent Indianapolis and Community North, which together have hundreds of ICU beds, more than any other part of Indiana.