Hospitals overwhelmed by covid are turning to ‘crisis standards of care.’ What does that mean?

Ann Enderle checks on a covid-19 patient in the intensive care unit at a hospital in Boise, Idaho, last month. (Kyle Green/AP)

Long-feared rationing of medical care has become a reality in some parts of the United States as the delta variant drives a new wave of coronavirus cases, pushing hospitals to the brink.

Alaska and Idaho have activated statewide “crisis standards of care,” in which health systems can prioritize patients for scarce resources — based largely on their likelihood of survival — and even deny treatment. The decisions affect covid and non-covid patients. Some health care providers in Montana have turned to crisis standards as well, while Hawaii’s governor this month released health workers from liability if they have to ration care.

Some states have no crisis standards of care plans, while others just created them during the pandemic. The common goal: Give health-care workers last-resort guidance to make potentially wrenching decisions. But people disagree on the best calculus.

“We only end up needing crisis standards of care when our other systems have utterly failed,” said Emily Cleveland Manchanda, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Boston University School of Medicine.

Four patients, two dialysis machines: Health-care rationing takes effect

Coronavirus: What you need to know

End of the public health emergency: The Biden administration ended the public health emergency for the coronavirus pandemic on May 11, just days after WHO said it would no longer classify the coronavirus pandemic as a public health emergency. Here’s what the end of the covid public health emergency means for you.

Tracking covid cases, deaths: Covid-19 was the fourth leading cause of death in the United States last year with covid deaths dropping 47 percent between 2021 and 2022. See the latest covid numbers in the U.S. and across the world.

The latest on coronavirus boosters: The FDA cleared the way for people who are at least 65 or immune-compromised to receive a second updated booster shot for the coronavirus. Here’s who should get the second covid booster and when.

New covid variant: A new coronavirus subvariant, XBB. 1.16, has been designated as a “variant under monitoring” by the World Health Organization. The latest omicron offshoot is particularly prevalent in India. Here’s what you need to know about Arcturus.

Would we shut down again? What will the United States do the next time a deadly virus comes knocking on the door?

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