Omicron explosion caused service disruptions across the country

Ambulances in Kansas rush to hospitals and then suddenly change directions because the hospitals are overcrowded. A shortage of staff in New York is causing delays in garbage collection and subway operations, as well as reducing the number of fire and emergency services. Airport officials have closed checkpoints at Phoenix’s largest terminal, and schools across the country are struggling to find teachers for their classes.

The current explosion of omicron-caused coronavirus infections in the United States is causing disruptions in essential functions and services – the latest illustration of how COVID-19 continues to devastate lives for more than two years after the outbreak of the pandemic.

“It really, I think, reminds everyone of when COVID-19 first appeared and there were such serious disruptions in every area of ​​our daily life,” said Tom Cotter, director of emergency response and preparedness for global health. profit Project HOPE. “And unfortunately, the reality is that it’s impossible to predict what will happen next until we increase the number of vaccines – worldwide.”

First responders, hospitals, schools and government agencies have taken an integrated approach to keep the population safe, but they are concerned about how long they will be able to maintain it.

In Johnson County, Kansas, paramedics work 80 hours a week. Ambulances were often forced to change course when the hospitals they were traveling to informed them that they were too overwhelmed to help, confusing the already anxious family members of patients traveling behind them. When ambulances arrive at hospitals, some of their emergency patients end up in waiting rooms because there are no beds.

Dr. Steve Stites, chief physician at the University of Kansas Hospital, said that when the head of a rural hospital had no room this week to send patients for dialysis, hospital staff consulted a textbook and “tried to put in some catheters and figure out how to do it.”

According to him, medical institutions suffered from a “double blow”. The number of COVID-19 patients at the University of Kansas Hospital rose from 40 on December 1 to 139 on Friday. At the same time, more than 900 employees have been ill with COVID-19 or are awaiting test results – 7% of the 13,500 hospital employees.

“What I’m hoping for, and we’re going to cross our fingers, is that when he reaches his peak … maybe he’ll have the same rapid fall as we’ve seen in South Africa,” Stites said, referring to in view of the rapidity with which the number of cases fell in this country. “We don’t know that. It’s just hope. “

The omicron variant spreads even more easily than other strains of the coronavirus and has already become dominant in many countries. It also more readily infects those who have been vaccinated or previously infected with previous versions of the virus. However, early research suggests that omicron is less likely to cause severe illness than the previous delta variant, and vaccinations and boosters continue to provide reliable protection against serious illness, hospitalization, and death.

However, its mild transmission has led to a dramatic increase in the number of cases in the United States, affecting businesses, government agencies, and public services alike.

In downtown Boise, Idaho, shoppers lined up in front of a pharmacy before it opened Friday morning, and soon the line stretched across the large pharmacy. Pharmacies suffered due to a lack of staff, or because employees got sick, or quit altogether.

Pharmacy technician Anesia Mascorro said that before the pandemic, the Sav-On pharmacy where she works always had recipes ready the next day. Now, hundreds of incoming orders take much longer to complete.

“The demand is crazy – everyone doesn’t get their scripts fast enough, so they keep getting passed on to us,” Mascorro said.

In Los Angeles, more than 800 police and firefighters have been suspended from work due to the virus as of Thursday, leading to slightly longer arrival times for ambulances and firefighters.

In New York City, officials had to postpone or reduce garbage collection and subway operations due to staff shortages due to the virus. The metropolitan transport department said that in recent days, about a fifth of the operators and conductors of the metro – 1,300 people – were absent. On Thursday, nearly a quarter of the city’s sanitation workers were absent due to illness, Sanitation Commissioner Edward Grayson said.

“Everyone works around the clock, 12 hours a day,” Grayson said.

The city fire department also adjusted the number of absentees. Officials said on Thursday that 28% of ambulance workers were sick, compared with about 8-10% on a typical day. Also, twice as many firefighters were absent than usual.

On the contrary, the incidence of the disease has decreased in the police department over the past week, officials said.

At Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, two checkpoints at the airport’s busiest terminal have been closed due to insufficient TSA agents not showing up for work, according to statements by airport and TSA officials.

In the meantime, schools from coast to coast have tried to maintain face-to-face teaching despite the massive absence of teachers. In Chicago, a tense standoff between the school district and teachers’ union over distance learning and COVID-19 safety protocols has led to class cancellations in the past three days. In San Francisco, nearly 900 educators and assistants called patients on Thursday.

In Hawaii, where public schools are located in one district of the state, 1,600 teachers and staff were absent Wednesday due to illness or pre-arranged leave or leave. The state teachers’ union criticized education officials for not being better prepared for the emptiness. Osa Tui Jr., head of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, said counselors and security guards are being forced to “watch the class.”

“This is very inappropriate,” Tui said at a press conference. “To have this model, where there are so many teachers, and for the department to say, ‘Send your child’ to a class that does not have a teacher, what is the point?”

In New Haven, Connecticut, where hundreds of teachers were absent every day this week, administrators helped cover classes. Some teachers say they appreciate it, but it can be confusing for students, exacerbating the physical and mental stress they already experience from the pandemic.

“We have experienced so much already. How far can the elastic stretch here? ” Leslie Blatto, president of the New Haven Teachers Federation, asked.

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