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Coronavirus US: Nearly a quarter of hospitals are reporting severe staff shortages as Omicron fuels surge in Covid-19 cases

Dr Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University’s Department of Public Health, told CNN on Sunday: “Given the magnitude of the infection, our hospitals are really on the brink of death.

Of the roughly 5,000 hospitals that reported this data to HHS on Saturday, nearly 1,200 – about a quarter – said they are currently experiencing severe staffing shortages, the largest proportion of the entire pandemic. . More than 100 other hospitals said they anticipate shortages over the next week.

The US healthcare system is Jha’s biggest concern, he said, noting that Omicron’s rise could hamper its ability to care for patients with illnesses other than Covid- 19.

“The health care system does not just designed to take care of people with Covid … it is designed to care for children with appendicitis and people who have had heart attacks and been in car accidents,” he said.

“And all of that is going to be a lot more difficult because we have a large proportion of the population that are not vaccinated, a lot of people at high risk of being unvaccinated,” he said. “That combination creates a large pool of people when they get infected that will really strain the resources we have in hospitals today.”

Staff shortages are growing due to frontline health workers being infected or forced into isolation due to exposure to Covid-19 as well as a spike in treatment demand: More than 138,000 Covid-19 patients was in a US hospital since Saturday, according to Department of Health and Human Services. This is not far from an all-time high (around 142,200 in mid-January 2021) and an increase from around 45,000 in early November.
To ensure hospital capacity, some facilities are forced to cut elective surgeries. In New York, for example, 40 hospitals – mainly in the Mohawk Valley, Finger Lakes and central regions – have been asked to stop non-essential elective operations for at least two weeks because of low bed capacity. , the state health department said on Saturday. .
Things to know if you catch Covid-19 during the holidays

The University of Kansas Health System is also about to implement crisis care standards, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Steven Stites said Saturday, telling CNN, “At some point … we do. too overwhelmed to perform any normal day-to-day tasks.”

“At that point, we had to flip a switch that said we had to categorize the people we could most help with,” he said, “and that meant we had to let some dead people, people we can help, but we’re not sure – they’ve gone too far or suffered too much trauma, or maybe we just can’t get over the trauma that just happened.”

Stites said two waves hit Kansas simultaneously – with Delta accelerating after Thanksgiving, to be met by Omicron – describing it as “almost a double pandemic.” Stites says the majority of those hospitalized are unvaccinated.

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

“Forty hospitals in New York have just canceled their election procedures. The DC Hospital Association, where I work, has asked the DC government to allow hospitals to enact crisis care standards.” he said. “And that’s coming to every city in the United States.”

Los Angeles sees record weekly filings

Approximately 62.5% of the total US population – 208 million people – fully vaccinated, according to US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Approximately 75.4 million people have received the booster dose, which means that 23% of the total US population is fully vaccinated and booster.

But there’s still about 21% of the eligible population, or 65.5 million people age 5 and older, who haven’t had a single dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, CDC data show.

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

Two healthcare providers told CNN they were forced to prioritize Covid-19 testing for certain people due to a spike in demand.

What the US can expect next from the Covid surge

Last week, many UW Medicine locations in Washington began prioritizing testing only for people “who have symptoms of respiratory illness or who have known exposure to COVID-19,” spokeswoman Susan Gregg said. told CNN. People without symptoms will not be tested, said Gregg, “due to the high volume of omicron cases being handled in our lab.”

According to UNC Health Director Alan M. Wolves.

Several localities are now seeing as many of the latest cases as they’ve seen an entire pandemic, including Los Angeles County.

On Saturday, the county reported more than 200,000 confirmed cases in the previous seven days – the highest number of cases in a week since the start of the pandemic, according to a bulletin from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. The department said hospitalizations doubled for the week to 3,200 and there were 135 Covid-related deaths.

An increase in infections is also hitting children in Los Angeles hard.

At Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, the positive rate for children tested for Covid-19 jumped from 17.5% in December to 45% in January, according to CHLA Chief Medical Officer Dr. Michael Smit.

CHLA currently has 41 patients in the home who have tested positive for Covid-19 and about a quarter of the children hospitalized with Covid-19 require admission to the pediatric ICU, with some requiring intubation, Smit said. told CNN on Saturday.

The increase in cases happens to be like Los Angeles students prepare to return to face-to-face classes on Tuesday.

Things to know if you catch Covid-19 during the holidays

The Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest school district in the country, is requiring all students and staff to present a negative Covid-19 test result before returning to classrooms.

The baseline testing requirement was implemented at the beginning of the school year in August, and the district announced a week ago both the baseline testing, along with the mandatory weekly testing for staff and students, will continue. to January, with the current increase.

Shannon Haber, LAUSD’s communications director, told CNN Saturday that 100% of LAUSD employees are fully immunized, and students 12 years of age and older are required to be fully vaccinated at the beginning of next school year, with 90% so far have met the requirements.

Disputes about face-to-face learning

In response to the growing number of childhood infections, disputes over whether face-to-face learning is ideal during Omicron surgery and how students can safely go to school are taking place in schools around the world. different school districts this week.

In the week ending December 30, children accounted for 17.7% of new cases reported in the US, recording a record 325.00 new cases in children – an increase, the American Academy of Pediatrics said. 64% from last week.

The Chicago Teachers Union has a new proposal
The Chicago Public Schools System (CPS) has classes are canceled as of Wednesday due to a dispute between city officials and the teachers union over returning to classrooms. The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) voted on Tuesday to teach remotely due to the Covid-19 surge, but the school district canceled classes, saying the schools were safe and it wants to learn directly.

The CTU said the conditions were unsafe, in part due to insufficient staffing and testing. They say they want more testing, along with additional mitigation protocols.

CTU presented a new proposal to Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Saturday. includes the resumption of virtual learning for CPS students beginning Wednesday and in-person instruction January 18 unless health officials determine it is unsafe. City officials rejected the proposal – although it accepted some requests, like providing KN95 masks for all staff and students – saying they look forward to “continued negotiations to reach an agreement. “

Dr. Julie Morita, former Chicago health commissioner and executive vice president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said children and teachers can be safe in the classroom by certain measures, like vaccination requirements and Wear a mask, ensure good ventilation and inspection.

“When those systems are in place, children and teachers can be safe in a school setting, but those systems have to be in place,” she said.

Members of the Chicago Teachers Union and supporters hold a car rally outside City Hall in the Roundabout, Wednesday night, January 5, 2022.

Dr Richina Bicette-McCain, medical director at Baylor College of Medicine, told CNN that schools may be safe but she believes they are currently “high risk”.

“Not because of the nature of schools, but because while we know what tools are available to us and we have the tools to reduce those risks, they are not,” she said. fully utilized.”

“Students need proper access to testing, we need to provide students and staff with high-quality masks,” she said. “Use HEPA filters in schools to increase ventilation and increase air circulation.

In Georgia, public school teachers test positive for Covid-19 no longer have to isolate Before returning to school if they are asymptomatic and wearing a mask, and contact tracing in schools is no longer required, according to a letter to school leaders released on Thursday. Years from Governor Brian Kemp and public health commissioner Kathleen Toomey.

But Lisa Morgan, president of the Georgia Association of Educators, believes the changes are “the completely wrong thing to do at the worst time.” Educators want to be in the classroom with their students, she said, “but that should be achieved by keeping everyone healthy.

“We know that there are more and more cases in children, more and more hospitalizations in children,” she told CNN on Saturday, and the move shows a lack of concern for health. and the safety of our educators, students, and families. “

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

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