“In view of the many infections, our hospitals are really on the sidelines right now,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health, told CNN on Sunday.
Of the roughly 5,000 hospitals that reported this data to HHS on Saturday, nearly 1,200 – about 1 in 4 – said they are currently facing a critical staff shortage, the largest proportion of the entire pandemic. More than 100 other hospitals said they expected a shortage within the next week.
The U.S. healthcare system was Jha’s greatest concern, he said, noting that Omicron’s surge could affect its ability to care for patients suffering from conditions other than Covid-19.
âThe health system is not simple It was designed to take care of people with Covid … it was designed to take care of children with appendicitis and people with heart attacks and car accidents, “he said.
“And all of this is going to be much, much more difficult because we have a large section of the population that is not vaccinated, a lot of high-risk patients who are not vaccinated,” he said. “That combination creates a huge pool of people who, when they become infected, are really draining the resources we have in hospitals today.”
The University of Kansas health system is also on the verge of implementing crisis standards for care, said Chief Medical Officer Dr. Steven Stites told CNN on Saturday: âAt some point … we are too overwhelmed to do our normal daily work. ”
âAt this point we have to turn on a switch that says we have to weed out the people we can help the most,â he said, âand that means we have to let some people die who we might have helped But we weren’t sure – they were too far away, or had too many injuries, or maybe we can’t reach the trauma that just came in. “
Stites said two waves would hit Kansas at the same time – with Delta accelerating after Thanksgiving to be hit by Omicron – describing it as “almost a double pandemic”. The vast majority of hospital admissions are unvaccinated, Stites said.
Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a professor of medicine and surgery at George Washington University, told CNN on Saturday that the next few weeks “will look bad” in many American cities.
âForty hospitals in New York have just canceled voting. The DC Hospital Association I work for has asked the DC government for permission for hospitals to introduce crisis standards for care, âhe said. “And that comes to every city in the United States.”
Los Angeles County has a record weekly number of cases
But still around 21% of the eligible population, or 65.5 million people ages 5 and up, haven’t received a single dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, the CDC data shows.
According to a CNN analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University, 39 states nationwide reported a 50% or more increase in cases in the past week compared to the previous week. As of Saturday, the seven-day average of new daily cases in the US was 701,199, according to JHU data.
Two health care providers told CNN they were forced to prioritize Covid-19 tests for certain people due to a surge in demand.
Last week, several UW Medicine Washington locations began prioritizing testing only for people âwho have symptoms of a respiratory disease or are known to be exposed to COVID-19,â spokeswoman Susan Gregg told CNN. People with no symptoms are not tested, Gregg said, “due to the high number of omicron cases processed in our laboratory.”
The University of North Carolina Medical Center at Chapel Hill limits Covid-19 tests, according to Alan M. Wolf.
Some places are now seeing most of the new cases they have seen throughout the pandemic, including Los Angeles County.
The surge in infections is also hitting the children of Los Angeles hard.
At Los Angeles Children’s Hospital, the positivity rate for children tested for Covid-19 has increased from 17.5% in December to 45% to date in January, according to CHLA Medical Director Dr. Michael Smit.
CHLA currently has 41 patients in the house who tested positive for Covid-19 and about a quarter of the children admitted to the facility with Covid-19 will need to be admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit, with some requiring intubation, said Smit across from CNN on Saturday.
The surge in cases comes just like Los Angeles Students are preparing to return to face-to-face classes on Tuesday.
Los Angeles’ Unified School District, the second largest school district in the country, requires all students and staff to present a negative Covid-19 test result before returning to the classroom.
The basic test requirement was introduced at the start of the school year in August, and the district announced a week ago that both the basic test and required weekly tests for staff and students would continue through January, given the current surge.
On Sunday, LAUSD Education Committee President Kelly Gonez said that around 50,000 positive Covid-19 cases had been identified as a result of the required tests, which prevented these students and staff from entering school buildings on Tuesday.
Disputes over personal learning
In response to the rise in pediatric infections, disputes are playing out across various school districts this week over whether in-person learning is ideal during the Omicron surge and how students can go to school safely.
In the week ended December 30, children accounted for 17.7% of newly reported cases in the United States, the American Academy of Pediatrics said, finding a record 325,000 new cases in children – a 64% increase from the previous week.
CTU said the conditions were unsafe, citing in part insufficient staffing and testing. They say they want more testing along with additional protocols to reduce risk.
CTU presented Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Saturday with a new proposal that includes a resumption of virtual learning for CPS students starting Wednesday and in-person tuition on January 18, unless health officials determine it is unsafe. City officials turned down the proposal – despite accepting some requests, such as providing KN95 masks to all staff and students – saying they look forward to “further negotiations to reach an agreement.”
Dr. Julie Morita, former Chicago health commissioner and executive vice president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said that certain measures, such as:
“With these systems in place, children and teachers can be safe in the school environment,” she said, “but these systems need to be in place.”
Dr. Richina Bicette-McCain, medical director at Baylor College of Medicine, said CNN schools may be safe but she believes they are currently “at high risk”.
âNot because of the very nature of schools,â she said, âbut because, although we know what tools are available to us and we have the tools to mitigate these risks, they are not being used appropriately.
“Students need adequate access to tests, we need to provide high quality masks to students and staff,” she said. âLet’s use HEPA filters in schools to increase ventilation and air circulation.
but Lisa Morgan, president of the Georgia Association of Educators, believes the changes are “absolutely wrong at the absolutely worst time.” The educators want to be in the classrooms with their students, she said, âbut that should be done by keeping people healthy.
âWe know that there are increasing cases of our children being hospitalized more often,â she told CNN on Saturday, âand this action shows a lack of consideration for the health and safety of educators, students and people our families. “
CNN’s Tina Burnside, Deidre McPhillips, Travis Caldwell, Keith Allen, Raja Razek, Natasha Chen and Anna-Maja Rappard contributed to this report.