The number of people hospitalized with Covid-19 in America reached a record high Wednesday with 151,261 patients as the rapidly spreading Omicron variant, putting some states’ intensive care units nearly full.
As the infection spreads, health care systems across the nation are confronting shortages of medical workers, who face a greater chance of Covid-19 exposure and must isolate after testing positive, and 19 states have less than 15% remaining capacity in their ICUs.
At least four states—Kentucky, Alabama, Indiana and New Hampshire—have less than 10% remaining capacity in their ICUs, according to data Wednesday from the US Department of Health and Human Services.
President Joe Biden will deploy a new wave of federal medical teams to six states to help hospitals combat the highly contagious Omicron variant as his administration’s Covid-19 response puts a focus on New Jersey, Michigan, New Mexico, New York, Ohio and Rhode Island.
Although research indicated the Omicron variant may cause less of a chance of needing hospitalization than prior Covid-19 variants, the strain’s increased transmissibility means more people will be infected, including those who are at higher risk for severe disease, such as those who are unvaccinated or immunocompromised.
While conditions are not as dire as at the start of the pandemic nearly two years ago due to the availability of vaccines and other treatment options, the staffing shortages in hospitals is a real concern during this latest surge, said Dr. Craig Spencer, director of global health in emergency medicine at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center.
“The problem is that right now we have hospitals where there’s not enough nurses to take care of the patients who are coming in, the Covid patients and the non-Covid patients,” said Spencer.
Dr. Gillian Schmitz, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians, said the strain on front-line workers is worse now than at any other point in the pandemic.
“Many places across the country are getting to the point where even their backup staff are getting sick,” said Schmitz. “Pretty much the whole country right now is feeling this surge of cases that is impacting staffing.”
The US averaged more than 747,260 new Covid-19 cases daily over the last week, according to Johns Hopkins University data. That’s about three times last winter’s peak average (251,987 on January 11, 2021), and about 4.5 times the peak from the Delta-driven surge (166,347 on September 1).
The whole world is having similar problems as those seen in America.
In France, thousands of teachers have gone on strike in protest over the government’s school safety protocols.
India recorded nearly 250,000 cases — a big jump from the day before. New Delhi has announced new restrictions as it braces for a new wave of infections.