Tuesday, January 11, 2022 | Kaiser Health News

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One Day, 1.35 Million Covid Infections: US Reports Shocking Record Cases

It’s a dreadful world record: On Monday, the number of confirmed covid cases in the U.S. blew through the previous daily high of 1.03 million. That number is triple the count from just a week ago. In a glimmer of good news, parts of the country may be close to or past the omicron peak.


Reuters:
U.S. Reports 1.35 Million COVID-19 Cases In A Day, Shattering Global Record 

The United States reported 1.35 million new coronavirus infections on Monday, according to a Reuters tally, the highest daily total for any country in the world as the spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant showed no signs of slowing. The previous record was 1.03 million cases on Jan. 3. A large number of cases are reported each Monday due to many states not reporting over the weekend. The seven-day average for new cases has tripled in two weeks to over 700,000 new infections a day. (Shumaker, 1/11)

In New York and Florida, omicron’s peak may already be here or coming soon —

Bloomberg:
Omicron Covid-19 Cases May Have Hit Peak In New York

New York’s Covid-19 infections may have reached a peak, about a month after the city’s first case of the omicron variant was identified. The seven-day average of people visiting New York emergency departments with Covid-like illness has dipped significantly in all five boroughs since the end of December, according to data from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The Bronx saw the biggest drop, with the 7-day average retreating 35% in the week through Friday. (Levin, 1/10)


Health News Florida:
UF Researchers Say Omicron Cases Will Peak Sooner Than Expected 

According to a report released by the University of Florida, the COVID-19 omicron variant will peak sooner than expected. In December, UF researchers predicted the omicron wave would reach its peak in February, but with the recent surge they’re now predicting the variant will peak within the next two weeks in the state. UF infectious disease expert Thomas Hladish said omicron continues to spread faster than other COVID variants. (Blake, 1/10)

In covid updates from California —

Los Angeles Times:
6 Million COVID-19 Infections In California, Most In The U.S.

More than 6 million cumulative coronavirus cases have now been reported in California, according to data compiled by The Times, as the Omicron variant continues its staggering spread. The record-setting pace of infections is putting pressure on hospitals, schools and other institutions, which are struggling to maintain full services even as some employees take time off to deal with COVID-19. (Money, Lin II and Evans, 1/10)


Los Angeles Times:
More Than 3,800 California Prison Staffers Have Coronavirus Amid Massive Surge This Month

California’s prisons have seen a huge surge in the number of employees testing positive for the coronavirus, with 3,845 active infections Monday, a 212% increase so far this month. In the last two weeks there have been 3,912 new coronavirus cases among state employees working inside California’s prisons, coinciding with the rapid spread of the Omicron variant throughout the state’s population. (Winton, 1/10)

In other news about the spread of the coronavirus —

CNN:
5 Reasons You Should Not Deliberately Catch Omicron To ‘Get It Over With’ 

The question hung in the air like a bad odor, silencing the small group of fully vaccinated and boosted friends and family at my dinner table. “Why not just get Omicron and get it over with? It’s mild, right? And it can boost immunity?” The fully vaccinated, boosted, well-educated friend who asked was sincere, echoing opinions heard on many social platforms. The idea of intentionally trying to catch Omicron is “all the rage,” said Dr. Paul Offit, the director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, with an exasperated sigh. (LaMotte, 1/11)


The Washington Post:
CDC Weighs Recommending Better Masks Against Omicron Variant

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is considering updating its mask guidance to recommend that people opt for the highly protective N95 or KN95 masks worn by health-care personnel, if they can do so consistently, said an official close to the deliberations who was not authorized to speak publicly. With the highly transmissible omicron variant spurring record levels of infections and hospitalizations, experts have repeatedly urged the Biden administration to recommend the better-quality masks rather than cloth coverings to protect against an airborne virus, and to underscore the importance of masking. (Sun and Roubein, 1/10)


AP:
US Rep Mace Of South Carolina Has COVID For Second Time

Republican U.S. Rep Nancy Mace of South Carolina has contracted COVID-19 for a second time, saying Monday the infection is milder than her first and that she has been fully vaccinated since last spring. Mace said she knew she had contracted the virus and opted to test after one of her children had tested positive. Her infection comes amid a resurgence of the pandemic fueled by the omicron variant. (Kinnard, 1/11)


Fox News:
Deltacron: A New Variant Of COVID-19 Or A Lab Contamination Mishap?

Deltacron, the reported new variant of COVID-19 said to combine both delta and omicron variants, has sparked a reaction of skepticism from world health experts. Scientists have expressed their doubts about its existence to various media platforms, saying that deltacron is likely the result of a lab contamination error. However, on Monday, the scientist behind the discovery defended his findings. A Cyprus researcher discovered deltacron, according to a report in Bloomberg News Saturday. (McGorry, 1/8)


As Hospitalizations Soar, Ask Yourself: What Else Can I Do To Prevent Covid?

“It’s time for everyone to pitch in and do what works. Wear your mask indoors. Avoid gatherings. … Get your vaccine and, if eligible, get boosted. That’s how we’ll get through this surge” said Democratic Gov. John Carney of Delaware, where hospitals are coping with “over 100% inpatient bed capacity.”


CNN:
Covid-19 Hospitalizations In The US Reach Levels Not Seen Since Last Winter’s Surge 

The spread of the Omicron variant is causing widespread disruption across the US as hospitalizations reach a level not seen since the 2020-21 holiday surge. More than 141,000 Americans were hospitalized with Covid-19 as of Monday, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services, nearing the record of 142,246 hospitalizations on January 14, 2021. The burden is straining health care networks as hospitals juggle staffing issues caused by the increased demand coupled with employees, who are at a higher risk of infection, having to isolate and recover after testing positive. (Caldwell, 1/11)


The Washington Post:
U.S. Poised To Break Covid-19 Hospitalization Record 

The United States is poised to surpass its record for covid-19 hospitalizations as soon as Tuesday, with no end in sight to skyrocketing case loads, falling staff levels and the struggles of a medical system trying to provide care amid an unprecedented surge of the coronavirus. Monday’s total of 141,385 people in U.S. hospitals with covid-19 fell just short of the record of 142,273 set on Jan. 14, 2021, during the previous peak of the pandemic in this country. (Nirappil, Shammas, Keating and Bernstein, 1/10)

In updates from Virginia, Kentucky, New York and New Jersey —

The Washington Post:
Virginia Hospitals In State Of Emergency, Says Northam 

Gov. Ralph Northam on Monday issued a limited state of emergency for hospitals stretched dangerously thin amid historic surges in coronavirus caseloads. The provisions of the targeted 30-day state-of-emergency order will make technical changes to expand capacity and increase staffing at hospitals while they grapple with the pandemic, seasonal flu and a general increase in acuity after patients deferred care. (Portnoy, Brice-Saddler and Vozzella, 1/10)


AP:
Beshear Activates National Guard To Help Strained Hospitals 

In response to rising hospitalizations, Gov. Andy Beshear announced Monday that more Kentucky National Guard members will deploy to 30 health care facilities, beginning this week.Kentucky is currently experiencing a record surge of COVID-19 cases fueled by the omicron variant that has started to strain some of the state’s hospitals. Roughly one-third of Kentucky’s hospitals are reporting critical staffing shortages. (1/10)


Crain’s New York Business:
New York City Hospital Data Indicates Available Beds—But Healthcare Workers Say Otherwise

Hospitals across New York City report thousands of available beds, but healthcare workers on the front lines say they struggle to find beds for a rising tide of patients. More than 12,000 total patients are hospitalized in the city, according to state data posted Sunday. About 6,100 have COVID—a number not seen since May 2020—including roughly 750 in intensive care units. Still, about 20% of the city’s hospital beds are available, according to self-reported data from hospitals that the state publishes online by hospital. (Kaufman, 1/10)


Bloomberg:
New Jersey Now Expects Smaller Covid Peak Later In January

New Jersey may have 8,000 Covid-related hospitalizations, nearing the state’s pandemic peak, in the third week of January, according to Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. “We do believe we are going to have high levels for a couple of weeks,” Persichilli said Monday during a virus briefing. She said daily cases were expected to hit 20,000 to 30,000 through January. An earlier prediction, based on modeling, suggested as many as 9,000 hospitalizations by Jan. 14. New Jersey had more than 8,000 virus-infected inpatients in April 2020. (Young, 1/10)

Also —

The New York Times:
How Families Can Navigate The I.C.U. 

In the last two years, the letters I.C.U. have become almost as familiar to the listening and reading public as PBS and NBC, as intensive care units across the country have been overwhelmed with people suffering from severe Covid-19. Meanwhile, medical personnel continue to struggle to care for patients with serious injuries, diseases or surgical complications who also require critical care. Intensive care can be a difficult and traumatizing experience for patients whose lives depend on it. And, according to the author of an extraordinarily thorough and helpful new book, the families and friends of patients who require prolonged stays in an I.C.U. often suffer along with them. (Brody, 1/10)


Short-Staffed And Short On Solutions: Your Doctor, Nurse Might Have Covid

In California, two powerful labor unions decried the state’s move to temporarily allow health workers who test positive to continue working. Other states across the U.S. are allowing the same as hospitalizations skyrocket. About 24% of nearly 5,000 hospitals are experiencing staff shortages.


Sacramento Bee:
Unions Condemn New Policy On COVID-Positive Hospital Workers 

Two influential and powerful health care labor unions condemned California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday for putting corporate interests ahead of public health after state regulators announced that hospitals and other institutions can compel asymptomatic workers to return to work even if they tested positive for COVID-19 or were exposed to it. “Gov. Newsom and our state’s public health leaders are putting the needs of health care corporations before the safety of patients and workers,” said Cathy Kennedy, a registered nurse and president of the California Nurses Association. “We want to care for our patients and see them get better – not potentially infect them. Sending nurses and other health care workers back to work while infected is dangerous. If we get sick, who will be left to care for our patients and community?” (Anderson, 1/10)


Politico:
Health Care Workers Are Panicked As Desperate Hospitals Ask Infected Staff To Return 

“We don’t think anyone who is knowingly Covid positive should be interacting with a cancer patient,” the American Cancer Society’s CEO, Karen Knudsen, told POLITICO. The CDC recommends, though doesn’t require, health providers to tell patients if an infected worker spends more than 15 minutes with them at a distance of less than six feet. Many health experts say transmission can occur in less time and distance. None of the hospitals POLITICO contacted responded when asked whether patients are informed if a caregiver was recently infected. (Levy, 1/10)


AP:
Vegas-Area Hospital Firm Cuts Staff COVID Quarantine Time 

A hospital company with several facilities in southern Nevada saying Monday it will cut to five days its return-to-work target for medical personnel who test positive for COVID-19. Dignity Health, with suburban medical centers in Henderson, southwest Las Vegas and North Las Vegas, joined facilities around the nation taking steps to let nurses and other workers infected with the coronavirus stay on the job if they have mild or no symptoms of illness. (1/11)

And more about staff shortages —

USA Today:
COVID Staffing Shortages Reported At 24% Of US Hospitals

Almost a quarter of U.S. hospitals are reporting “critical staffing shortages” as counties across the country set COVID-19 case records. About 24% of nearly 5,000 hospitals are experiencing the shortages — the most since the start of the pandemic — and another 100 anticipate shortages this week, according to the newest data released by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Meanwhile, medical centers nationwide could set a single-day record for in-patient care of coronavirus patients as soon as Tuesday. According to the Washington Post, U.S. hospitalizations totaled 141,385 on Monday, barely under a record set on Jan. 14, 2021. (Yancey-Bragg, Stucka, Ortiz and Rice, 1/10)


The Wall Street Journal:
Hospitals Cut Beds As Nurses Call In Sick With Covid-19 

Rising numbers of nurses and other critical healthcare workers are calling in sick across the U.S. due to Covid-19, forcing hospitals to cut capacity just as the Omicron variant sends them more patients, industry officials say. The hospitals are leaving beds empty because the facilities don’t have enough staffers to safely care for the patients, and a tight labor market has made finding replacements difficult. (Evans, 1/10)


WUSF Public Media:
Staff Shortages And Surging Coronavirus Cases Are Straining Florida Hospitals 

COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to rise in Florida, although not yet to the peak levels seen during the delta surge last summer. Florida Hospital Association president Mary Mayhew said the omicron variant is causing less severe illness in most patients. She said the portion of COVID patients requiring intensive care or oxygen is far lower than during delta. Some patients aren’t even going to the hospital for COVID, but instead are testing positive while seeking care for something else. Still, Mayhew tells Health News Florida’s Stephanie Colombini the surge is straining hospitals. (Colombini, 1/10)

In related news —

Billings Gazette:
Nursing Labor Market Tightened, Wages Rose During Pandemic, MSU Study Shows

A new study from a Montana State University researcher and his colleagues provides evidence that the labor market tightened for the nursing workforce throughout the first 15 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, a period marked by falling employment and rising wages across the industry. The paper, “Nurse Employment During the First 15 Months of the COVID-19 Pandemic,” was published today in the January issue of the journal Health Affairs. Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Current Population Survey, which is administered monthly by the U.S. Census Bureau, the study identified and described the immediate economic impact of the pandemic on registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and nursing assistants across the U.S. from April 2020 through June 2021. (Gorham, 1/10)


KHN:
Fire Closes Hospital And Displaces Staff As Colorado Battles Omicron 

The Colorado wildfire that destroyed more than 1,000 homes last month has forced the temporary closure of a hospital and upended the lives of health care workers as the state’s already strained health care system braces for another surge in covid-19 hospitalizations. Avista Adventist Hospital in Louisville, a community outside Boulder that was devastated in the wildfire that erupted Dec. 30, has been closed due to smoke damage and officials have not announced when it might reopen. In addition, at least 36 people who work in hospitals in the region lost their homes, while others sustained smoke damage to their homes that may prevent them from returning home. (Ruder, 1/11)

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