Planning your RV travels now has a new – and potentially deadly – factor to consider, thanks to COVID-19. Will you be able to get the health care you need as you travel from state to state?
The worldwide pandemic has certainly been a roller coaster of emotional decisions and bureaucratic missteps during the past two years. We all thought we were emerging from the dark place with the advent of vaccines last spring. But then, vaccine hesitancy and breakthrough infections shifted the goalposts.
We won’t go into the wisdom, or lack thereof, of ignoring the vaccines today (at least until the end of this essay). Like everyone else, I’ve got my opinions. We are all entitled to think what we will. But we also need to be aware of the actual fallout of our decisions.
The facts are that while new infection numbers in many states are starting to decline, hospitals in many locations are still totally overwhelmed.
Take Montana, for example
Take my former home state of Montana, for instance. Hospitals throughout the state are operating at well above capacity and are starting to turn away patients.
KTVQ-TV in Billings, Montana, recently reported that the father of a family from Colstrip, a small town about 55 miles east of Billings, was turned away from both Billings hospitals when he needed emergency surgery for a perforated bowel. His wife also tried hospitals in Helena, Bozeman, and Kalispell. All major hospitals in the state said they weren’t in a position to help because of overflowing patient counts due to COVID-19.
Shawn Loyning’s wife, Janelle, finally found a small hospital in Cody, Wyoming, that would take them in. Shawn had to be stabilized in the Cody Hospital’s ER before he could get the surgery, and he nearly died. (He did survive and is doing better now but isn’t out of the woods).
The two Billings hospitals claim they are operating at about 175 percent capacity right now, mostly filled with unvaccinated COVID-19 patients. Administrators at Billings Clinic admit that they are putting patient beds in hallways and conference rooms to try to deal with the burgeoning crowds.
Last week, Montana had the second-highest number of new Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations, per capita, of any state. It’s also one of the least vaccinated states, at 49.3 percent. I’ll leave it to you to decide if that fact is a factor in all of this.
Many other states are struggling, too
Billings and the rest of Montana aren’t the only places that are struggling. Other states and cities are reporting overflowing medical facilities, exhausted staff, scary protocols for rationed care, and a lot of potential “no vacancy” signs for those requiring immediate help. Hospitals in more than 10 states reported their highest rates of COVID-19 admissions in late September.
How does this impact you, the traveling RVer? If you are confident that you can tiptoe down the highways without getting seriously ill or injured, I guess you’re good to go.
But if you are unlucky enough to fall ill or get hurt in one of these hospital “hot spots” during your travels, you’re in trouble. Good insurance or even lots of cash won’t save you.
So, add a little health care hotspot research to the list of things to do when making your travel plans. The fact is many hospitals – including in major U.S. cities – now resemble understaffed Third World village clinics. You’d be wise to precisely understand the medical situation for areas where you plan to travel. Welcome to a new travel reality, at least for now.
Be careful out there … and get your shots.