Nearly a quarter of US hospitals are reporting a “severe staff shortage” as counties across the country have had their COVID-19 case records.
About 24% of about 5,000 hospitals are experiencing shortages – the largest number since the pandemic began – and another 100 expect shortages this week, according to the latest data from the US Department of Health and Human Services.
The shortage comes because more than a third of US counties had their COVID-19 case records just 10 days into the new year, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data. About 1,350 counties reported the highest weekly number of epidemic cases. The analysis indicates that every county in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey broke a record.
In Los Angeles County, infections among hospital workers and other health care staff have risen as the number of cases has risen, exacerbating staffing shortages at medical centers.
“We have a very advanced health care system, but it is made up of people,” said Dr. Kimberly Schreiner, medical director for infection prevention and control at Huntington Hospital in Pasadena, outside Los Angeles. “And now, people are getting COVID.”
Also in the news:
► Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Rochelle Wallinsky and others will testify Tuesday morning before a US Senate committee on COVID-19 variables and the federal response to variables.
United States Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, Announced in a tweet on Sunday evening She tested positive with a breakthrough case of COVID-19. She has symptoms and is recovering at home. The tweet said she received a booster shot in the fall.
Pope Francis encouraged people to get vaccinated on Monday, saying that individuals have a responsibility to take care of their own health, which “translates into respect for the health of those around us”. Francis called healthcare a “moral obligation” and lamented that people are influenced by ideologies “backed by baseless information or poorly documented facts”.
► Today’s co-presenter Savannah Guthrie has announced that she has tested positive for COVID-19, less than a week after fellow presenter Hoda Kotb tested positive. Guthrie, who received a booster injection, said her symptoms are mild.
📈 Today’s numbers: The United States has recorded more than 60 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 837,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: more than 307 million cases and 5.49 million deaths. More than 207 million Americans — 62.5% — have been fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
📘What we read: Confused by all the home tests for COVID-19? This new report from an independent patient safety group ranks the most commonly used rapid and inexpensive home tests based on how easy they are to use to help consumers choose an appropriate and reliable option.
Keep updating this page for the latest news. do you want more? Sign up for the free Coronavirus Watch newsletter from USA TODAY to receive updates straight to your inbox and join our Facebook group.
Omicron variant spurs record increase in US COVID cases
The United States set a new one-day record for COVID-19 cases Monday with more than 1.38 million new infections reported as of 7 p.m. ET, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data.
That number, stimulated by the spiraling Omicron variable, exceeds a revised number of 1.17 million for the previous record, set just one week earlier on January 3. The coronavirus case data tends to rise on Monday due to the waiting results from the weekend, being less comprehensive.
However, the aggregate numbers indicate a confirmed increase in COVID-19: The six highest-ever single-day reports have occurred in the past eight days, since January 3, and Monday’s total was four times the number reported on Sunday.
– Mike Stuka
Virginia declares ‘limited emergency’ to boost hospitals
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam on Monday issued a “limited emergency order” to support hospitals experiencing a surge in cases due to COVID-19.
The 30-day emergency order authorizes medical centers and nursing homes to expand beds, staffing, and care without meeting certain regulatory requirements.
Virginia reported 3,500 hospitalizations Monday, with the number of patients using ventilators more than doubling since December 21. A significant number of critically ill COVID patients are not immunized, according to the governor’s order.
Major COVID tests will be covered by insurance companies starting Saturday
starting saturday, Private health insurers will be required to cover up to eight home tests for COVID-19 per month for people on their plans. The Biden administration announced the change Monday as it looks to cut costs and make testing for the virus more convenient amid mounting frustrations.
Under the new policy, Americans will either be able to buy home test kits for free under their insurance or provide receipts for tests in order to reimburse, up to an individual’s monthly limit.
A family of four can be compensated, for example, for up to 32 tests per month. PCR and rapid tests ordered or administered by a healthcare provider will continue to be fully covered by insurance without limit.
President Joe Biden faced criticism over the holiday season over the lack of rapid testing at home as Americans traveled to see family amid a surge in cases from the more transmissible omicron variant. The administration is now working to make home testing easier for COVID-19, by increasing supply and lowering costs.
Later this month, the federal government will launch a website to begin making 500 million home COVID-19 tests available by mail. The department is also expanding the scale of emergency rapid testing sites in areas with the largest increase in cases.
Immunocompromised people can get their fourth vaccine starting this week, says the CDC
The possibility of giving a fourth COVID-19 vaccine to the general population has already been discussed as the scientific community attempts to combat the highly transmissible omicron variant.
For some immunocompromised people, this extra dose is available this week.
The CDC updated its guidelines for people with moderate to severe weakened immune systems, and recommends an extra dose for those who received the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine regimen — but not the Johnson & Johnson vaccination — 28 days after the second shot.
An additional dose is not considered a booster dose, which is also recommended five months after the initial additional injection. The previous recommendation called for a six-month wait.
People who are eligible for the third vaccine before the booster include those receiving treatment for leukemias, organ or stem cell transplant recipients taking immune-suppressing drugs, people living with HIV and others with conditions that affect their immune system. There are also age restrictions based on the specific type of vaccine.
The additional initial shot is intended to stimulate a stronger immune response in people whose systems are weakened — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates there are 7 million in the United States — and thus are more susceptible to severe effects from the virus.
A small study finds that the immune response from the common cold may protect against COVID-19
A small study by researchers from Imperial College London, published on Monday, showed that people with high levels of T-cells after the common cold may be less likely to contract COVID-19.
Study author Dr Rhea Kondo said: statment. “Instead, the best way to protect yourself from COVID-19 is with a full vaccination, including getting a booster shot.”
The study, published in Nature Communications, tracked 52 unvaccinated people living with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 starting in September 2020. Half of these people did not become infected and had significantly higher levels of reactive T cells in their blood. The study found those who did.
According to the study, it is possible that the protective T cells, which target the internal proteins of the coronavirus rather than the skeletal proteins targeted by the messenger RNA vaccines, may have formed after a previous infection with another coronavirus that causes the common cold.
The researchers acknowledged the limitations of the study, which was small and mostly restricted to white participants. But they said the findings may help develop a vaccine in the future.
Australian judge says Novak Djokovic can stay but the drama isn’t over yet
Circuit Court Judge Anthony Kelly also ordered the government on Monday to release Djokovic, who is seeking to play in this month’s Australian Open, from a Melbourne hotel quarantine within 30 minutes of his decision.
But Australian government lawyers are threatening to revoke his visa and deport him, which would see the nine-time winner miss the Australian Open for the tournament, which begins next week. He will also be banned from entering the country for three years.
Chicago public schools closed again on Monday as the teachers union and the city continued to fight over safety measures
Students in the country’s third largest school system I walked out of school for the fourth day in a row on Monday as Chicago leaders squabbled with the teachers’ union over a question that has plagued communities since early 2020: Are schools safe to work in person?
The guild says no; City and county leaders say yes. Children and families have been stuck in the middle since Wednesday, when teachers voted to go away after two days of in-person tutoring. Then the city said that wasn’t an option, and they cut distance education together. Negotiations continued over the weekend, but the two sides failed to reach an agreement.
The highly contagious variant Omicron has overwhelmed efforts to normalize public and private education, as schools across the country struggle to deal with the virus outbreak and teacher absenteeism. In Greenville County, South Carolina, the state’s largest district reported Monday that one-seventh of teachers have called in sick — most of them with coronavirus — putting in-person classes at risk at some schools.
Education experts are increasingly warning that district-wide lockdown time has passed and that children need to be in school. But large systems in Newark, Milwaukee and Detroit also switched to remote education only this week amid a spike in COVID-19 infections and staff shrinking. Read more here.
– Erin Richards and Grace Hook, USA TODAY
California governor seeks $2.7 billion in emergency funding to fight omicron
California Governor Gavin Newsom’s administration said Saturday that it is asking the state legislature To obtain $2.7 billion in emergency funding to combat the increase in COVID-19 cases linked to the omicron variant.
The request comes a day after Newsom activated 200 California National Guard members to help bolster testing facilities. More guards are expected to be deployed next week.
“Since day one, California has taken quick and direct action to fight COVID-19 with policies that have saved tens of thousands of lives, but there is more work to be done,” Newsom said.
Department officials said the state received 2,700 new COVID-19 admissions Friday, bringing the total number of virus admissions to about 10,000.
The money will also be used to fight misinformation that officials believe is responsible for some Californians refusing to vaccinate. Part of that effort, officials said, is to continue to fund community outreach programs in partnership with ethnic media, voice-gathering, and phone banking.
Christopher Damien, Palm Springs Desert Sun
Contributing: James Ward, Visalia Times Delta and Associated Press