A soldier transports a patient to the UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, Massachusetts on December 30, 2021.
Joseph Prezioso | AFP | Getty Images
President Joe Biden on Thursday announced the deployment of six teams of military medical personnel to overcrowded hospitals in New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Rhode Island, Michigan and New Mexico.
The 120-person deployment comes as hospitals grapple with staff shortages as nurses and other medical personnel call in patients from omicrons amid an influx of patients infected with the highly contagious variant.
Biden also said the administration plans to purchase an additional 500 million Covid tests, in addition to the 500 million it already purchases, for free distribution across America.
Since Thanksgiving, the United States has deployed more than 800 military and emergency personnel, Biden said. More than 14,000 National Guard members have also been deployed in 49 states to help fight Covid, the president said.
Biden said the US has also more than tripled its national stockpile of highly active substances. quality Masks N95.
“I made sure our doctors, nurses and first responders have the masks they need,” Biden said. “We will never again force our nurses to use homemade masks and garbage bags over hospital clothes because they don’t have gowns.”
Biden said his administration will also provide free high-security masks to Americans who cannot afford them.
“I know that for some Americans, the mask is not always available or comfortable,” Biden said. “So next week we will announce that this is how we make high quality masks available to Americans.”
The number of hospitalizations due to Covid-19 is higher than last winter’s peak, before widespread vaccine proliferation. More than 152,000 people in the U.S. were hospitalized with Covid as of Wednesday, up 18% over the past week, according to data tracked by the Department of Health and Human Services.
“As long as we have tens of millions of people who are not vaccinated, we will have complete hospitals and unnecessary deaths,” Biden said. “So the most important thing that can determine your outcome in this pandemic is vaccination.”
The U.S. reported nearly 900,000 new infections on Wednesday, bringing a seven-day average of more than 786,000 new cases per day – a pandemic record and a 37% increase from the previous week, according to CNBC analysis of data compiled by the University. Johns Hopkins. …
On average, more than 1,000 hospitals across the country are currently reporting critical staff shortages, according to HHS. However, this is likely an underestimate as many hospitals did not report their status as of Wednesday.
Dr. Gillian Schmitz, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians, said the workload on frontline workers is higher than at any other time in the pandemic.
“Many places across the country go to the point where even their support staff get sick,” Schmitz told CNBC on Wednesday. “Virtually the entire country is now feeling this spike in cases, which is affecting staffing.”
Biden announced his plan to send 1,000 military medics to support hospitals in December as the omicron quickly overtakes the delta variant. The Federal Emergency Management Agency also provides additional routes for hospitals and dispatches ambulances and ambulances to transport patients.
“It’s not enough,” Schmitz told CNBC on Wednesday. “I know that everyone is trying to support the best they can, but resources are limited even within our national structure.”
Epidemiologists warn that the sheer scale of omicronic infections still threatens to overwhelm hospitals with patients, even if the option is usually less severe than delta.
Infectious disease experts in a study this week found that patients with omicron at Kaiser Permanente in Southern California are 74% less likely to need intensive care and 91% less likely to die from the virus, compared to people with the delta variant. According to the study, none of the omicron patients required mechanical ventilation.
The overall risk of hospitalizations was also 52% lower in patients with omicron compared to those with delta, according to the study. The hospital stay for omicron patients was also about three days shorter than for their Delta counterparts.
Kaiser Permanente Southern California serves over 4.7 million people. The study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, analyzed over 52,000 omicron cases and almost 17,000 delta cases.
Doctors and nurses have been warning of staff shortages for months. The American Nursing Association called on the Biden administration in September to declare the nursing shortage a national crisis.
“National health care systems are overwhelmed and nurses tired and frustrated as this constant pandemic rages endlessly,” said then ANA President Ernest Grant. “Nurses on their own cannot solve this longstanding problem, and this is not our burden,” Grant said.
Acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock told lawmakers on Tuesday that the US must ensure that hospitals and other essential services do not break down when people report illness.
“It’s hard to see what’s really going on right now, which is that most people will get Covid,” Woodcock told the Senate Health Committee on Tuesday. “What we need to do is make sure hospitals can continue to function, transportation and other essential services are not disrupted while this is happening.”
CNBC Christina Wilkie contributed to this article.