New Jersey hospitals and long-term care facilities are facing staff shortages amid a “tsunami” of omicron COVID-19 cases according to state health officials.
Hospitalizations climbed rapidly in recent days, as the highly transmissible omicron variant is spreading through close contact related to the recent holidays, said Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli.
Hospitals and nursing homes face staffing shortages due to staff being out sick and those facilities are planning to lose a minimum of 30 percent of their staff.
At least 5,155 COVID-19 patients were admitted in New Jersey’s 71 hospitals on Monday, marking the highest reported number of hospitalizations since May 5, 2020.
That figure was up from 4,715 patients only a day before as hospitalizations climbed in just one week by more than 2,000. More than 3,500 patients being discharged in the intervening period.
New Jersey has not had more than 5,000 COVID-19 patients since May 5, 2020 — when the initial wave of the pandemic was starting to ease.
The state Department of Health is asking the Federal Emergency Management Agency to send strike teams to overwhelmed hospitals and working with the National Guard to place substitute worked in long-term care facilities.
The steady rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations comes as medical facilities are grappling with staffing shortages — especially among nurses — because of myriad factors linked to the pandemic, including exhaustion and mental stress. Now add frontline workers who themselves contracted the coronavirus.
“It’s just the perfect storm. We had Thanksgiving. We had Christmas. We had New Years, and we had omicron in the middle of it,” said Michele Acito, the chief nursing officer at Holy Name. “That perfect storm really increased the number of admissions and even staff illnesses.”
“The impact is really exhaustion at this point,” Acito said. “I feel like this should have been over last year when the vaccine was given out. It should have been over after the last wave. But here we go again.”
The deluge of cases is prompting some hospitals to curtail elective surgeries, and many have turned to staffing agencies or redirected employees to fill in the gaps.
The U.S. Supreme Court, which has restricted its own operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, is preparing to decide whether to block President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandates for large businesses and healthcare workers in a test of presidential powers to address an unyielding public health crisis.
The court’s 6-3 conservative majority has shown skepticism toward sweeping actions by federal agencies but the danger of the mutating virus is an emergency of life-threatening proportions that should justify extraordinary measures to protect public health.