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Only 15 ICU beds available in Memphis area hospitals as case numbers surge

Memphis ICU beds are at 97% capacity while hospitals are struggling to keep up.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The dwindling number of ICU beds in the Memphis area is alarming hospitals. 

As of Tuesday, there are no more than 15 ICU beds available. The Shelby County Health Department reported 97% of the area's ICU beds are currently being utilized. 

Dr. LaTonya Washington, the physician adviser at St. Francis Hospital in Memphis, said healthcare workers have heightened anxiety over the virus. They fear contracting the virus themselves while helping care for patients. 

"In regards to being able to adequately care for patients who have the disease and with concerns of spreading it to our family members," Washington said. 

As Shelby County nears 57,000 active cases, the strain is being felt at hospitals as staffs work hard to keep up. Washington said the greatest challenge right now is the "manpower" to fight this. 

"We are very tired," Washington said. "A lot of healthcare workers have been picking up extra shifts, working extra, going above and beyond during this pandemic." 

With the increasing number of hospitalizations, Washington said additional healthcare workers would be welcomed. Volunteers from areas not experiencing a surge like this could offer some relief. 

"Unfortunately, now we’re seeing many large cities experiencing a surge and so the workforce is a little more strained at this time," Washington said.

She said at this moment the alternate care site on Union Avenue in Downtown Memphis might need to be utilized, but it could be some time before it actually opens. Washington added right now the only way to minimize hospitalizations is to practice social distancing, wearing masks and washing hands.