By John Dodge

CHICAGO (CBS) — Northwest Indiana hospitals are quickly running out of available beds to treat the region’s most seriously ill patients due to an alarming surge of COVID-19 patients.

Right now, there are only about 50 ICU beds open in the five-county region, and that number doesn’t even take into account whether there are enough doctors, nurses and support staff to handle them.  Right now, COVID-19 patients are taking up 36% of those ICU beds, while patients with other serious illness are filling 42%, leaving about 22% of beds open.  Overall, there are a record 535 COVID-19 patients in the hospital, including about 90 patients in intensive care. Just a month ago, only 12% of ICU patients were suffering from COVID.

In the mostly rural region to the south of Northwest Indiana, which includes Lafayette and West Lafayette, half of the ICU beds are occupied by COVID patients, and there are fewer than 10 ICU beds remaining.

In Northwest Indiana, state health officials reported 906 new COVID cases, and five more deaths.  On average, the region is reporting about 850 new cases a day.

Statewide, Indiana reported a total of 7,420 new COVID cases, the second-highest total during the pandemic.  Another 59 Hoosiers have died, also one of the highest counts ever. Right now, on average, about 40 Hoosiers are dying of COVID each day, meaning as many people are now dying of COVID daily as the state’s No. 1 killer-heart disease.

The surge in hospitalizations is not unique to Northwest Indiana.  There are nearly 3,100 Hoosiers in the hospital with COVID and the state’s overall ICU bed availability is 21%.

Despite these numbers, Gov. Eric Holcomb on Wednesday said there would be no changes to his latest executive order, which does include a public mask mandate and limits on public gatherings, depending on the level of spread in a county (see above).  However, the order does little to restrict public access to some of the higher risk behaviors, such as eating in restaurants and drinking in bars. He has left those decisions up to local, county officials.