(CNN) – As a shortage of Covid-19 tests worsens an emerging crisis of new hospitalizations, more states are rushing to help hospitals and health care networks with staff and supplies.
Staff shortages are increasing as frontline healthcare workers – who are at higher risk of exposure – are infected and need to be quarantined as the spread of the Omicron variant is driving more people to hospitals .
In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Friday evening that more than 200 members of the National Guard will be deployed to dozens of test sites, joining other states that have mobilized members of the National Guard for medical duties and not medical facilities to help overburdened health facilities.
“It’s really, right now, a viral blizzard because there are a lot of infections,” said Dr. Samer Antonios, clinical director of Ascension Via Christi Health in Kansas, where Gov. Laura Kelly signed the state of disaster emergency this week due to the challenges of Covid-19.
Nearly 132,000 patients with Covid-19 were in US hospitals on Friday, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. That’s not far from the all-time peak (around 142,200 in mid-January 2021) and an increase from around 45,000 in early November.
Due to staff shortages in some health care systems across the country, due to illnesses or people leaving hospital due to burnout, the nation “cannot provide the same quality of care to 130 000 patients now that we did last year, “Dr. Taison Bell, director of the medical intensive care unit at the University of Virginia Health, told CNN Saturday.
To preserve hospital capacity, some states have eliminated elective surgeries in some facilities.
In New York City, 40 hospitals – mostly in the Mohawk Valley, Finger Lakes and central regions – have been ordered to shut down non-essential elective surgeries for at least two weeks due to low patient bed capacity the state health department said on Saturday.
As more patients need care, many people with possible symptoms of Covid-19 have gone missing as tests remain difficult to find, and doctors have asked those who suspect they are positive. self-isolate at home with or without confirmation of infection.
Long queues are commonplace at many testing facilities since the holidays. In Utah, four state-operated test sites that experience some of the “highest demands and longest wait times” will be available by appointment-only, starting Saturday, due to the ‘increased demand, the Utah Department of Health said Friday.
The move came as authorities took further steps to counter the spread of the virus. Utah’s most populous county, Salt Lake County, issued a 30-day mask warrant for all indoor public places on Friday.
In an attempt to increase the supply of tests, the Biden administration has pledged to distribute 500 million free rapid tests nationwide. Officials have provided few details, but they plan to launch a website this month where people can register for tests online and then receive them by mail.
The first contract to purchase the tests has been signed and more are expected in the coming weeks, officials told CNN on Friday.
Vaccine requirements are changing
Almost two-thirds of Americans eligible to receive a vaccine – anyone aged 5 years and older – have been fully immunized, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yet the number of people vaccinated and boosted is much lower, with 22% of the total population having done so.
The United States Food and Drug Administration on Friday amended the authorization for emergency use of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine, shortening the time between the initial vaccination and the booster from at least six months to five months for people over 18 years old.
“Vaccination is our best defense against Covid-19, including circulating variants, and shortening the time between the end of a primary series and a booster dose may help reduce the decline in immunity,” said the Dr Peter Marks, Director of the FDA Center. for the evaluation and research of biological products.
The FDA has already shortened the time it takes to receive a Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine booster from six to five months. The Pfizer booster is approved for anyone aged 12 and over.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced Friday that she is requiring all healthcare workers to be vaccinated against Covid-19 within two weeks of eligibility.
“Healthcare workers will be asked to do this without any exemption other than a medical exemption and without any testing option,” Hochul said. All healthcare workers previously had to be fully immunized in September.
Neighboring Connecticut issued a similar order on Thursday as long-term care staff and hospital workers are required to receive booster doses in the coming weeks.
Debate on security measures related to Covid-19 in schools
Hospitalizations among children have risen sharply and concerns about student safety remain high.
At the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles (CHLA), the positivity rate of children tested for Covid-19 has increased from 17.5% in December to 45% so far in January, according to the medical director of the CHLA, Dr Michael Smit.
CHLA currently has 41 in-house patients who have tested positive for Covid-19, and about a quarter of children admitted to the facility with Covid-19 require admission to the pediatric ICU, some requiring intubation, Smit told CNN Saturday.
In response to the increase in pediatric hospitalizations, disputes over whether in-person learning is ideal during the Omicron Wave and how students can safely attend school are unfolding in various school districts this week.
Nearly 13% of students in New York City have tested positive for Covid-19 in a 24-hour period, according to test samples from the city’s education department on Thursday. No schools are currently closed due to cases of Covid-19, according to additional data from the DOE, but six classrooms remain closed.
The Chicago Public School System (CPS) has canceled classes since Wednesday due to a dispute between city officials and the teachers’ union over the return to class, and Mayor Lori Lightfoot has said she wants that an agreement between the two parties be reached this weekend.
“Our children have to go back to school. Schools are safe, ”she told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) had voted to teach remotely due to the Covid-19 outbreak, but the school district canceled classes, saying it wanted in-person learning.
CTU presented a new proposal to Lightfoot on Saturday, which the union said would clarify back-to-class, create increased safety and testing protocols and restart the education process for students.
The PSC rejected the proposal, saying it was waiting “for further negotiations to reach an agreement”.
The school district accepted CTU’s request to provide KN95 masks to all staff and students for the remainder of the school year and said it will continue to provide weekly Covid-19 tests to all students and the staff.
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker said in a statement Saturday that his office has helped secure 350,000 rapid antigen tests for Chicago public schools.
“I am committed to seeing our children and teachers safely in classrooms as soon as possible,” he said in the statement.
In the Unified School District of Los Angeles, students and employees will be required to present a negative Covid-19 test result before in-person learning resumes on Tuesday.
The basic test requirement was implemented at the start of the school year in August, and the district announced a week ago both the basic test, as well as the required weekly tests for all employees. and students would continue through January, given Omicron’s current push.
“Ghostbuster-level” sanitation practices, along with other protocols like universal masking, have kept each of the district’s more than 1,000 schools open for in-person learning this school year, said Saturday to CNN Shannon Haber, communications manager for LAUSD.
In Georgia, public school teachers who test positive for Covid-19 no longer need to self-isolate before returning to school, and school contact tracing is no longer necessary, letter to school leaders says released Thursday by Governor Brian Kemp and Public Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey.
Georgia’s Ministry of Public Health on Wednesday issued an updated administrative order allowing teachers and school staff – regardless of vaccination status – to return to work after exposure to Covid-19 or a positive Covid-19 test if they remain asymptomatic and wear a mask during their stay. job.
“Students, parents and educators have made it clear to us that they want to be in the classroom, and we are looking at many methods to continue safe in-person learning – including quarantine and quarantine protocols. updated isolation, reduced contact tracing requirements, and increased testing opportunities, ”said the letter from Kemp and Toomey.
Local school districts can still develop and follow their own quarantine and isolation requirements, according to the ordinance.
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