Almost two years after the coronavirus pandemic, the United States is suffering from yet another surge. More than 90,000 new infections per day are reported nationwide, 23% more than a month ago. Eighteen states, including Wyoming, Pennsylvania, Nebraska, and New Hampshire, have more ICU patients with confirmed or suspected Covid than they did a year ago.Read more: US Covid rebounds are as bad as last November at some spots
The White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, Jeff Seienz, said on Monday that the United States is not heading for the Covid-19 blockade as imposed by some European Union countries in response to the recent outbreak. Vaccines, booster shots, and treatments “accelerate the exit from this pandemic,” Zyentz said in a conference call.
Still, more than 40% of the United States is not fully vaccinated. For some, its effectiveness is declining, with only 18% receiving booster immunity. On the other hand, a pandemic puts a strain on the hospital ICU and the hospital workforce, creating an unprecedented labor shortage.
Eric Toner, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Health Security Center, who specializes in hospital preparation, said: “Often the reason the intensive care unit is overwhelmed is the lack of staff.”
Nancy Foster, vice president of quality and patient safety policy at the American Hospital Association, said hospitals are exploring multiple strategies to increase staff. She said this included relocation from less-damaged areas within large hospital systems and the use of federal workers.
This week, the Department of Defense dispatched a medical response team of approximately 20 nurses, respiratory therapists, and other specialists to assist staff at the Poodle Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, University of Colorado Health. In Minnesota, Governor Tim Walz is helping the state’s National Guard to close the gap in skilled nursing.
According to the State Hospital Association, there were 3,785 Covid inpatients in Michigan as of November 21, of which 784 were in the ICU. Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who enacted some of the strictest early regulations in the United States to delay the Covid epidemic in 2020, has so far resisted reviving them. The Democratic Party said on Monday that her administration may provide some guidance prior to Thursday’s Thanksgiving holiday.
“We can’t wait any longer for Michigan to change course,” the hospital association said in a statement. “We now need your help to end this surge and allow our hospitals to take care of everyone who needs it.”
As the nation enters the annual flu season, the association predicts that the number of cases will continue to increase over the next few weeks. The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention has sent a team to investigate a cluster of 528 cases of influenza found on the University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus since October 6. About 77% were unvaccinated.
About 54% of Michigan’s population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19, well below the US average of 59%.
“We knew that if we didn’t get high immunization rates, we would have to deal with another surge,” said Henry Ford’s Munkala. “And unfortunately we live it.”
As of Monday, unvaccinated accounts for 72% of Henry Ford’s Covid-infected patients, 86% of Covid ICU patients, and 89% of Ventilator-using Covid patients. Henry Ford has not yet begun canceling elective surgery or non-urgent care, but it is possible, Munkala said.
“As the numbers continue to grow, as we see, they will require significant reschedules of cases, which will probably slow down some non-emergency or urgent activities,” he said.
Toner said he expects the latest wave of infections and staff shortages to mean fewer Covid-19 hospitalizations needed to overwhelm the system. The flu season, which has just begun, will cause more stress, he said.
“I think you’ll see hospitals and ICUs reaching their limits in many places,” Toner said.
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