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Seriously ill virus patients top 800, number once cited as max for hospitals

Total number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients hits 1,593, as Israel’s per capita death rate from the virus surpasses the United States’

Healthcare workers wearing protective clothes as they work at the coronavirus ward of Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem on September 23, 2020. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Healthcare workers wearing protective clothes as they work at the coronavirus ward of Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem on September 23, 2020. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Israel on Tuesday passed the threshold of 800 serious coronavirus patients — the point that has in the past been cited as a red line beyond which the healthcare system won’t be able to adequately treat everyone.

A document published by the Health Ministry in the afternoon showed that there were 811 serious COVID-19 patients as of Tuesday afternoon, a figure that included 239 who were classified as being in critical condition, 206 of them on ventilators.

It said another 298 were in moderate condition, and 477 were hospitalized with mild symptoms. The total number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients stood at 1,593.

By evening the number of serious cases had dropped to 778, but was expected to swiftly rise above 800 again.

A report in August by experts at the Weizmann Institute of Science predicted that hospitals would only be able to handle up to 800 serious patients.

Medical personal wearing protective gear, disinfect an ambulance outside the emergency room at the Ziv Hospital, Safed. September 27, 2020. (David Cohen/FLASH90)

In July, Prof. Ran Balicer of Clalit, Israel’s largest health maintenance organization (HMO), told the Ynet news site that due to manpower constraints, “a reality of 800 to 900 serious coronavirus patients treated at any given time by the Israeli health system is a workload under which the system cannot function for long.”

However, the Haaretz daily last week quoted an unnamed senior health official as putting the number at around 1,200 or 1,300 serious patients.

Hospitals have also warned that the increasing number of quarantined healthcare workers has created a serious manpower shortage. The Health Ministry on Tuesday said 4,228 healthcare workers are currently in quarantine, nearly half of whom (1,980) are confirmed to be infected with COVID-19.

Healthcare workers wearing protective clothes as they work at the coronavirus ward of Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem on September 23, 2020. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that he had ordered the health system to prepare, as of October 1, to have to treat 1,500 serious patients.

Dr. Guy Choshen, head of the coronavirus department at Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Medical Center, told Channel 12 Monday night the hospital was seeing an ever-increasing caseload, as both the number of serious cases and those requiring ventilation continued to grow, with a particular rise evident in the past few days.

“We see a rise in the number of those who come and are forced to fight to release patients to other facilities, to [coronavirus] hotels,” Choshen said. “We are really struggling to release in order to make space for the next patients coming in.”

Shaare Zedek hospital team members wearing protective clothes as they work at the coronavirus wardl in Jerusalem on September 23, 2020. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Israel’s coronavirus death toll passed 1,500 on Monday night, Health Ministry data showed, with over 500 new deaths recorded in some three weeks. The death toll stood at 1,507 on Tuesday morning, as new diagnoses and seriously ill patients continued to rise, as did the percentage of tests coming back positive.

Israel has had a total of 233,554 confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic, with 65,025 active cases.

Israel’s daily coronavirus deaths per capita have surpassed those of the United States, a military task force said in a report published Tuesday morning. According to the data, Israel’s daily death rate over the last week has been 3.5 per million people, while the US rate was some 2.2 per million.

In an effort to drive down the soaring infection rates — which surpassed 8,000 on several days last week — a sweeping new lockdown took force at 2 p.m. on Friday, though lawmakers were unable to reach an agreement over planned restrictions on protests and public prayers. New rules on those two issues were expected to pass in the Knesset later Tuesday.

Under Friday’s new rules, nearly all businesses are closed, with the exception of specific companies and factories designated as “essential” by the Defense Ministry’s National Emergency Authority, as well as grocery stores and food shops. Restaurants are permitted to operate on a home-delivery basis only.

While the government had initially indicated the lockdown would last two to three weeks, officials have indicated in recent days it could last far longer.

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