NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The number of patients hospitalized in Tennessee for COVID-19 continues its dramatic rise, now standing at an all-time high of 1,416 patients with confirmed or suspected cases currently in the hospital.
On top of that, there is growing concern that hospitals may soon face difficulty having enough doctors and nurses to staff a shrinking number of hospital beds.
"There are more and more people in health care – some nurses, doctors, therapists who are getting COVID because the number of cases of COVID are going up in our city and a lot of these people are actually getting it not in the hospital but out in the community," Dr. Alex Jahangir, chair of the Metro Nashville Board of Health, told NewsChannel 5 Investigates.
"You can have a million beds, but if you only have 10 nurses or doctors because all the other doctors and nurses are not able to work because maybe they are sick or maybe they just aren’t at the hospital, you can’t fill up a million beds with patients."
According to data tracked by the Tennessee Department of Health, there were 984 people hospitalized on Wednesday with confirmed cases of COVID-19. That's more than doubled the daily count in the past three weeks alone.
Another 432 patients are classified as "persons under investigation," a designation for those displaying coronavirus symptoms but still awaiting confirmation.
The continuing rise in COVID-19 patients continues to threaten the ability of hospitals to deal with the crisis.
Statewide, only 326 ICU beds remain available, according to a state health department dashboard.
That's about 16% of the system's current capacity.
Across Tennessee, 2,050 hospital beds remain available, about 17% of the capacity.
As of yesterday, Tennessee was down to 17% hospital bed availability and 16% ICU bed availability. That's 326 ICU beds available statewide. 3/3 pic.twitter.com/zbLJEkZlye
— Phil Williams (@NC5PhilWilliams) July 16, 2020
"In Metro areas, specifically Memphis and Nashville, but quite frankly in all six of our metro areas where our large health systems are, they're starting to feel some strain from the increased hospitalization and ICU rates," Tennessee Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey said Tuesday.
In Nashville, officials announced Thursday that hospital floor bed capacity in Davidson County had dropped to 18% - below the target of 20%.
ICU bed capacity in Metro Nashville still held at 23%, just above the 20% goal.
Jahangir worries that, "with the high number of new cases, our resources could get stretched."
"Right now, COVID is very real," the Vanderbilt physician said.
"The numbers are going up. And these people who are coming into our hospitals are sicker and sicker each day."
Earlier this week, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said the state has plans for creating surge capacity - additional hospital beds - if they are needed.
Of course, that doesn't solve the emerging staffing problems.
That's why Jahangir said it is now more important than ever to frequently wash your hands, socially distance and wear masks out in public.