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CDC director says US hospitals are 'filled with unvaccinated people' and warns that some are running out of ventilators and beds

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Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci testify before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee July 20, 2021 on Capitol Hill
Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, testifying before the Senate on July 20. J. Scott Applewhite-Pool/via Getty Images
  • Healthcare systems in some parts of the US are in "dire straits," the CDC's Rochelle Walensky said.

  • "Our hospitals are filled with unvaccinated people," she told CBS.

  • Staffers are having to make tough decisions about who gets ventilators and ICU beds, Walensky said.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Healthcare systems in some parts of the US are in "dire straits" as unvaccinated people fill up hospitals, Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told CBS's "Face the Nation" on Sunday.

Some parts of the US are using "crisis standards of care" and running out of hospital beds, Walensky said.

"That means that we are talking about who is going to get a ventilator, who is going to get an ICU bed," she said. "Those are not easy discussions to have, and that is not a place we want our healthcare system to ever be."

She said she worried that people who need treatment for things like car accidents or heart attacks "may not be able to come in and get the proper care."

"That is why we are working so hard in areas that have high levels of disease" and healthcare systems "in dire straits," she said.

From September 18 to 24, US hospitals admitted a daily average of nearly 9,000 people with COVID-19, CDC data indicates. The seven-day average peaked at 16,489 in early January.

Walensky said hospitals were filling up with people who hadn't been vaccinated against the coronavirus. "Our hospitals are filled with unvaccinated people," she said.

The highly infectious Delta variant continues to spread across the US. Though the variant has caused so-called breakthrough infections among vaccinated people, data suggests that vaccines still protect well against severe COVID-19.

Kaiser Health News reported on Wednesday that an intensive-care unit at a hospital in Montana had so many COVID-19 patients that it was at operating at 160% capacity and was "running out of hallways" to treat people in.

Earlier in September, Idaho's Department of Health and Welfare said hospitals with few beds might have to place patients in conference rooms.

A CDC study earlier this month found that unvaccinated Americans were 11 times as likely to die from COVID-19 as fully vaccinated Americans. Two-thirds of adults in the US have had two doses of a coronavirus vaccine, but 23% haven't had a first dose, according to CDC data.

President Joe Biden has urged Americans to get vaccinated and has announced plans to mandate vaccination or weekly testing at companies with more than 100 employees.

Daily COVID-19 cases in the US are falling after a surge in late August and early September, CDC data indicates.

Last week, Insider's Aria Bendix reported on a new model from researchers suggesting that while US COVID-19 cases and deaths aren't likely to climb between now and March, hospitals may still be strained in states with cold climates or low vaccination rates.

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