PARIS — The number of patients in intensive care in France on Monday surpassed the worst point of the country's last coronavirus surge in the autumn of 2020, another indicator of how a renewed crush of infections is bearing down on French hospitals.
The French government's count of COVID-19 patients in ICUs and hospital surveillance units climbed to 4,974 on Monday. That is past the last high-point of 4,919 ICU cases on Nov. 16, when France was also gripped by a virus surge and was locked down in response.
ICU admissions are increasing by double digits on a daily basis. Doctors are increasingly sounding the alarm that they may have to start turning patients away for ICU care, particularly in the Paris region.
"We are in a crisis situation," said Dr. Jacques Ballout of the Pierre Beregevoy Hospital in the Burgundy town of Nevers. His hospital's 12-bed intensive care ward is at capacity with COVID and non-COVID patients.
"We'll see if we can stay the course. It all depends on the infections," he told The Associated Press over the weekend. Virus restrictions in his region were tightened last week as the government added it to the country's highest-risk zone.
When the pandemic first hit France, hospitals ended up with more than 7,000 patients in intensive care, a high point reached in April 2020.
But during that initial tidal wave of infections, hospitals stopped treating many non-COVID-19 patients to avoid becoming completely overwhelmed.
This time, as was also the case last November, hospitals are not completely clearing their decks of non-virus cases. While some nonessential surgeries are again being postponed, hospitals are still treating COVID and non-COVID emergencies, putting some ICUs under intense and worsening pressure.
With the more contagious, more aggressive virus variant first identified in Britain now dominant in France, Ballout said, "We're seeing younger and younger patients, in their 40s and 50s but also younger ... and a difference in the virulence." That includes people with no health problems, he said, who didn't think they were vulnerable and likely to get hospitalized.
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