Coronavirus USA: Nearly a quarter of hospitals report a critical staff shortage as Omicron drives an increase in Covid-19 cases

“Given how much infection there is, our hospitals are really on the brink right now,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health, to CNN Sunday.

Of the approximately 5,000 hospitals that reported this data to HHS on Saturday, nearly 1,200 – about 1 in 4 – said they are currently experiencing a critical staff shortage, the largest proportion of the entire pandemic. More than 100 other hospitals said they expect a shortage within the next week.

The U.S. healthcare system is Jha’s biggest concern, he said, noting that the Omicron increase could hamper its ability to care for patients suffering from conditions other than Covid-19.

“It is not the health care system just “designed to take care of people with Covid … it’s designed to take care of children with appendicitis and people who have heart attacks and are involved in car accidents,” he said.

“And all of that is getting much, much harder because we have a large portion of the population that is not vaccinated, lots of high-risk people that are not boosted,” he said. “That combination creates a huge pool of people who, as they become infected, will end up really straining the resources we have in hospitals today.”

This staff shortage is growing as frontline healthcare workers are either infected or forced into quarantine due to exposure to Covid-19, as is the demand for treatment skyrocketing: More than 138,000 Covid-19 patients were in U.S. hospitals from Saturday, according to Department of Health and Human Services. It is not far from the all-time high (about 142,200 in mid-January 2021) and an increase from about 45,000 in early November.
To ensure hospital capacity, some facilities are forced to cut back on elective surgeries. In New York, for example, 40 hospitals – mostly in the Mohawk Valley, Finger Lakes and central regions – have been asked to stop unnecessary elective surgeries for at least two weeks due to low patient bed capacity, the state Department of Health said Saturday.
What to know if you caught Covid-19 during the holidays

The University of Kansas Health System is also close to implementing crisis standards for care, said Chief Medical Officer Dr. Steven Stites on Saturday told CNN: “At some point … we’re too overwhelmed to do any of our normal daily work.”

“At that point, we need to turn on a switch that says we need to triage for the people we can help the most,” he said, “and that means we need to let some people die who we might have been able to help, but we were not sure – they are too far away or had too much of an injury, or maybe we can not get to the trauma that has just come in. “

Stites said two waves hit Kansas simultaneously – with Delta accelerating post-Thanksgiving to be met by Omicron – describing it as “almost a double pandemic.” The vast majority of those admitted are unvaccinated, Stites said.

About 62.5% of the total U.S. population is fully vaccinated according to US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 36% of them have received a booster shot, the data show.

Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a professor of medicine and surgery at George Washington University, told CNN on Saturday that the next few weeks will “look bad in many American cities.”

“Forty hospitals in New York have just canceled elective procedures. The DC Hospital Association, where I work, has asked the DC government for permission for hospitals to impose crisis standards on care,” he said. “And it’s coming to every city in the United States.”

Los Angeles sees record-breaking weekly case numbers

Nationwide, 39 states report a 50% or more increase in cases over the past week compared to the previous week, according to a CNN analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University. As of Saturday, the seven-day average of new daily cases in the United States was 701,199 per day. JHU data.

Some localities are now seeing most of the new cases they have seen throughout the pandemic, including Los Angeles County.

On Saturday, the county reported more than 200,000 confirmed cases during the previous seven days – the highest number of cases in a week since the start of the pandemic, according to a press release from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. Hospital admissions doubled during the week to 3,200, and there were 135 Covid-related deaths, the department said.
What the US can expect next from the Covid rise
With rising infections, California Governor Gavin Newsom on Saturday announced a proposed $ 2.7 billion Covid-19 emergency package designed to bolster testing and vaccination efforts, support frontline workers and combat misinformation, his office said in a press release. Newsom also signed an executive order Saturday “which establishes consumer protection against price drops on home test kits.” according to his office.

The rise in infections is also hitting the children of Los Angeles hard.

At Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, the positivity rate for children tested for Covid-19 has risen from 17.5% in December to 45% to date in January, according to CHLA Medical Director Dr. Michael Smit.

CHLA currently has 41 patients internally who have tested positive for Covid-19, and about a quarter of the children admitted to the institution with Covid-19 require hospitalization in the pediatric intensive care unit, some of which require intubation, Smit told CNN Saturday.

The rise in cases comes just like Los Angeles students are preparing to return to the personal lessons on Tuesday.

What to know if you caught Covid-19 during the holidays

The Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest school district in the country, requires all students and staff to show a negative Covid-19 test score before returning to the classroom.

The requirement for a baseline test was implemented at the beginning of the school year in August, and the district announced a week ago that both the baseline test, along with required weekly tests for all staff and students, would continue through January, given the current Omicron -increase.

Shannon Haber, head of communications for LAUSD, told CNN on Saturday that similar protocols this fall, along with vaccination requirements, universal masking and “Ghostbusters-level” sanitation practices, have enabled each of its more than 1,000 schools to remain open to personal learning. academic years.

Haber said 100% of LAUSD staff are fully vaccinated and students 12 years and older must be fully vaccinated by the beginning of the next school year, with 90% meeting this requirement so far.

Disputes about personal learning

In the week ending December 30, children accounted for 17.7% of new reported cases in the United States, said the American Academy of Pediatrics, which recorded a record 325,000 new cases among children – a 64% increase from the week before .

In response to rising pediatric infections, controversy is raging over whether personal learning is ideal during the Omicron rise and how students can safely go to school in different school districts this week.

The Chicago Public Schools (CPS) system has canceled classes since Wednesday due to a dispute between city officials and the teachers’ union over returning to the classroom.
The Chicago Teachers Union offers a new proposal

The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) had voted to teach at a distance because of the Covid-19 increase, but the school district canceled tuition and said it wanted personal learning.

CTU on Saturday presented a new proposal to Mayor Lori Lightfoot, which the union said would provide clarity on a return to the classroom, create increased security and test protocols and restart the education process for students.

The CPS rejected the proposal, saying it looked forward “to continued negotiations to reach agreement.”

The school district agreed with CTU’s request to provide KN95 masks to all staff and students for the remainder of the school year and said they will continue to provide weekly Covid-19 tests to all students and staff.

Members of the Chicago Teachers Union and supporters are holding a caravan protest outside the Loop City Hall on Wednesday night, January 5, 2022.
In Georgia, elementary school teachers who test positive for Covid-19 no longer need to isolate themselves before returning to school, and contact tracking in schools is no longer required, according to a letter to school leaders released Thursday by Governor Brian Kemp and Public Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey.

The Georgia Department of Public Health on Wednesday issued an updated administrative order allowing teachers and school staff – regardless of vaccination status – to return to work after a Covid-19 exposure or a positive Covid-19 test if they remain asymptomatic and wear a mask while at work.

Lisa Morgan, president of the Georgia Association of Educators, told CNN on Saturday that she thought the changes were the “absolutely wrong thing to do at the absolute worst time.”

“We know there are increasing cases in our children, there are increasing hospitalizations in our children, and this action shows a lack of consideration for the health and safety of educators, students and our families,” Morgan said.

She said teachers wanted to be in classrooms with their students, but that should be achieved by keeping people healthy.

How 10 parents of school-age children cope with Omicron, in their own words

The removal of the contact tracking requirement was frustrating, she said. “Now an educator will not know if there is a positive case in their classroom. Parents will not know if there is a positive case in their child’s classrooms. So educators and parents will then not be able to make informed decisions for to ensure their child’s health and safety, “Morgan said.

Lack of teachers in Boston prompted Inspector Brenda Cassellius to step in to teach a fourth-grade class last week. She told CNN on Saturday that the strain over the past two years had been severe for adults and children.

“It has been especially challenging for our high school children and our middle school students, who have had significant isolation and unregulation due to mental health issues,” she said. Going forward, Cassellius said, more testing capacity was needed in her district.

“We need our teachers to be included in these tests, because right now, vaccinated students and teachers are not included in these tests. We need some shifts in policy, especially when we are in peak times,” she said.

CNN’s Deidre McPhillips, Travis Caldwell, Keith Allen, Raja Razek, Natasha Chen and Anna-Maja Rappard contributed to this report.

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