As the US continues to grapple with soaring new Covid cases, overwhelmed hospitals in the southern states say they are running out of oxygen supplies.
Several hospitals in Florida, Texas and Louisiana have said they are at risk of completely running out of oxygen for patients battling the Delta variant, CNN reports.
Doctors and nurses have spoken out in recent weeks about the sheer volume of severely ill, unvaccinated people being admitted and their struggle to keep them alive.
In one Florida hospital, staff have begun referring to patients who are unable to survive without the help of machines as the "talking dead".
"The 'talking dead' didn’t make sense to me until I saw it first hand," Senior Clinical Officer at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital, Dr Ryan Smith, told CNN.
"It’s how quickly they decompensate when they don’t have that oxygen."
Dr Smith, who is also a registered nurse, told the publication he had recently been making rounds as a nurse to see what is happening first-hand.
"The first part of my shift, I had my first few patients look at me and say, 'Don’t let me die'," he said.
"As soon as you remove them from the devices they no longer made it.
"To watch how quickly they dwindle down is the hardest thing for me."
Young children dying from Covid
The Delta variant led to an acceleration in cases around Florida and record high hospitalisations just as schools prepared to reopen classrooms this month.
The state said 16,820 people were hospitalised on Tuesday, down from a record of more than 17,000 last week.
Tallahassee Memorial Hospital sits in Leon County, which has 1,800 current Covid cases and recorded 212 new hospital admissions in the past 7 days, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says.
Last week, the city of Tallahassee saw its largest surge in Covid cases and hospitalisations since the start of the pandemic, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.
There were 43 patients in the Covid ICU at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital and this week three children with the virus variant are fighting for their lives.
Two children, including one under 5, have died in the past month, according to Tallahassee Democrat.
Covid deaths across Florida have escalated so much that a federal non-profit organisation has purchased 14 portable morgues for hospitals in need, CNN reports.
Delta is 'eating' people’s lungs
Dr Ahmed Elhaddad, the ICU medical director at Florida’s Jupiter Medical Center, told the publication he’s "tired of seeing people die and suffer because they did not take a vaccine".
"We're seeing the patients die faster with this variant," Dr Elhaddad said, adding that the virus is "eating" people’s lungs, leading to their deaths.
"This round, we're seeing the younger patients — 30, 40, 50-year-olds — and they're suffering. They're hungry for oxygen, and they're dying. Unfortunately, this round they're dying faster," he said.
Top US infectious diseases expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, told CNN the US could see an additional 100,000 Covid deaths by December.
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