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US “drowning” in a new type of COVID spike this time, report shows

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Jiya Saini
Jiya Saini is a Journalist and Writer at Revyuh.com. She has been working with us since January 2018. After studying at Jamia Millia University, she is fascinated by smart lifestyle and smart living. She covers technology, games, sports and smart living, as well as good experience in press relations. She is also a freelance trainer for macOS and iOS, and In the past, she has worked with various online news magazines in India and Singapore. Email: jiya (at) revyuh (dot) com

The omicron strain is wreaking havoc on hospitals across the United States, causing a disruption, unlike previous COVID-19 outbreaks.

Many medical staff members have become ill with the rapidly spreading strain, and as a result, they are facing severe staffing issues. A high number of people are showing up at emergency rooms in the hopes of being tested for COVID-19, putting additional burden on the healthcare system. In addition, a surprising number of people — up to two-thirds in certain regions – test positive while in the hospital for other reasons.

Despite this, hospitals claim that the patients are not as unwell as those who arrived during the previous influx of patients. Critical care units aren’t quite as crowded as they used to be, and ventilators aren’t used nearly as frequently as they were in the past.

Despite the demands, hospitals are reducing non-emergency surgeries and closing wards, while National Guard troops have been dispatched to medical centers and testing facilities in several states.

Nearly two years into the pandemic, health-care professionals are frustrated and exhausted.

In the words of Dr. Robert Glasgow of the University of Utah Health, which has hundreds of employees who are off sick or in isolation, “this is getting very tiring.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 85,000 people in the United States are hospitalized with COVID-19, slightly below the delta-surge peak of about 94,000 in early September. The all-time high during the pandemic occurred in January of last year, when around 125,000 people died.

However, the number of people admitted to hospitals do not represent the complete story. Some of the cases included in the official count were caused by COVID-19 infections that were not the primary reason for the patients’ admission to the hospital in the first place.

According to Dr. Fritz François, chief of hospital operations at NYU Langone Health in New York City, approximately 65 percent of COVID-19 patients admitted to that system recently were primarily hospitalized for something else and were inadvertently confirmed to carry the virus.

In two large Seattle hospitals during the past two weeks, three-quarters of the 64 patients who tested positive for the coronavirus had a main diagnosis other than COVID-19 when they were admitted to the hospital.

UC San Francisco’s Healthforce Center’s associate director of research, Joanne Spetz, believes that the increasing number of situations like this is both a good and a terrible thing for the country.

According to her, the absence of symptoms indicates that immunizations, boosters, and natural immunity from earlier illnesses are effective. The bad news is that the coronavirus is spreading rapidly as a result of the high numbers, and a significant number of those patients will require hospitalization.

This week, 36 percent of California’s hospitals reported severe staffing shortages, according to the California Hospital Association. And 40 percent of those interviewed anticipate shortages.

According to Kiyomi Burchill, vice president for policy and leader on pandemic issues for the California Hospital Association, some institutions are reporting as much as one-quarter of their employees absent due to virus-related reasons.

As a result, hospitals are turning to temporary staffing firms or relocating patients out of their facilities.

University of Utah Health intends to maintain over 50 beds open due to a nursing shortage. Additionally, it is rescheduling non-emergency surgery. A maternity department at a Florida hospital was forced to close briefly due to a lack of available staff.

In Alabama, where the majority of the population is unvaccinated, UAB Health in Birmingham issued an urgent plea that people get COVID-19 tests or report minor symptoms elsewhere and stay at home except in dire emergencies. Because treatment rooms were so congested, some patients were required to be evaluated in hallways and closets.

As of Monday, there were approximately 10,000 people in hospitals across New York State who had COVID-19, with 5,500 of them being in New York City. Since the catastrophic spring of 2020, this is the highest total in either the city or the state.

Hospital officials in New York City, on the other hand, have stated that the situation has not deteriorated. In most cases, the patients aren’t as sick as they were a few years ago. Around 600 of the patients admitted to New York City’s hospitals were in intensive care units.

The physician-in-chief of Northwell Health, New York State’s largest hospital system, Dr. David Battinelli, points out, “we’re not even halfway to what we were in April 2020.”

Similarly, the number of COVID-19-infected people on ventilators grew in Washington state during the last two weeks, but the proportion of patients who needed it decreased.

When it comes to South Carolina, which is seeing record-breaking numbers of newly diagnosed cases and an alarmingly high number of hospitalizations, Gov. Henry McMaster took note of the supposedly less deadly variant and remarked, “There’s no need to panic. Be calm. Be happy.”

In the midst of the omicron-caused rise in demand for COVID-19 testing across the United States, New York City’s Fire Department is urging residents not to call an ambulance just because they are unable to locate a test.

In Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine announced the addition of new or expanded testing locations in nine cities in an effort to divert test-seekers away from emergency departments. Approximately 300 men of the National Guard will be dispatched to assist with the operations at those facilities.

According to Sherri Dayton, a nurse at the Backus Plainfield Emergency Care Center in Connecticut, many ER patients are placed in beds in hallways, and nurses are frequently required to work double shifts due to a lack of available personnel.

According to her, many emergency departments have lengthy waiting times of many hours.

“We are drowning. We are exhausted,” Dayton said.

Doctors and nurses are grumbling about fatigue and a sense that their colleagues and neighbors are no longer seeing the pandemic as a crisis, despite the fact that COVID-19 cases continue to rise at an alarming rate.

“In the past, we didn’t have the vaccine, so it was us all hands together, all the support. But that support has kind of dwindled from the community, and people seem to be moving on without us,” Rachel Chamberlin, a nurse at New Hampshire’s Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center said.

At Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health, the chief clinical officer, Edward Merrens, said that more than 85 percent of the COVID-19 patients who were in the hospital were not vaccinated.

Many patients at the hospital’s COVID-19 intensive care unit (ICU) were on ventilators, with a breathing tube inserted into their throats. In one room, staff personnel made final preparations for what they suspected would be the last family visit for a dying patient before passing away.

Fred Rutherford, a 55-year-old Claremont, New Hampshire resident, was among those who had not received the vaccine. When he became sick, his son lifted him out of the house and transported him to the hospital, where he required a breathing tube for a time and feared he would die.

If he comes home, he swears to be vaccinated and to spread the word to others to do the same as well.

“I probably thought I was immortal, that I was tough,” Rutherford said, speaking from his hospital bed behind a window, his voice weak and shaky.

But he added: “I will do anything I can to be the voice of people that don’t understand you’ve got to get vaccinated. You’ve got to get it done to protect each other.”

___

Casey reported from Boston and Thompson from Sacramento. Associated Press writers Terry Tang and Bobby Calvan in New York City contributed to this report.

Image Credit: Getty

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