Coronavirus in the US: States struggle to keep up with an increase in hospitalizations and demand for testing

Staff shortages are increasing as frontline health workers – who are at higher risk of exposure – are infected and quarantined at a time when the spread of the Omicron variant is driving more people to hospitals.
In California, Governor Gavin Newsom said late Friday that more than 200 National Guard members will be deployed to dozens of testing sites, joining other states that have mobilized National Guard members for medical and non-medical duties to help overburdened healthcare facilities.

“It’s really a viral blizzard right now because there are a lot of infections,” said Dr. Samer Antonios, chief clinical officer at Ascension Via Christi Health in Kansas, where Governor Laura Kelly signed a state of emergency this week. to Covid-19 challenges.

Nearly 132,000 Americans have been hospitalized with Covid-19, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services Friday, up from about 45,000 in early November.
With more patients in need of care, many people with possible Covid-19 symptoms remain deficient as tests are hard to come by, and doctors have asked those who suspect they are positive to isolate at home with or without confirmation of infection.
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Long lines have been the norm at many testing facilities since the holidays. Beginning Saturday, four state-operated testing sites in Utah that experience some of the “highest demand and longest wait times” will be available by appointment only due to rising demand, the Utah health department said Friday.
To try to increase the supply of tests, the Biden administration has pledged to distribute 500 million free rapid tests across the country. Officials have given few details, but they expect to launch a website this month where people can sign up for the tests online and then receive them in the mail.
The first contract to purchase tests has been signed and more are expected in the coming weeks, officials told CNN on Friday.
Medical assistant Leslie Powers carries swabs collected from people to process them on site at a Covid-19 testing site Thursday in Long Beach, California

Vaccine Requirements Changing

Nearly two-thirds of Americans eligible for a vaccine — anyone 5 years and older — have been fully vaccinated, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yet the number of vaccinated and boosted is much lower: 22% of the total population has done so.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday changed the emergency use authorization for Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine, shortening the period between the first vaccination and the booster shot for those over the age of 18 from at least six months to five months. .

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“Vaccination is our best defense against Covid-19, including the circulating variants, and shortening the time between completion of a primary series and a booster dose can help reduce waning immunity,” said Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biological Evaluation and Research.

The FDA has already reduced the time it takes to get a booster shot of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine from six to five months. The Pfizer booster is authorized for anyone 12 years and older.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced Friday that she will require all health professionals to receive a Covid-19 booster shot within two weeks of being eligible.

“Health workers will be asked to do this with no exceptions except a medical waiver and without testing options,” Hochul said. Previously, all health workers had to be fully vaccinated in September.

Neighboring Connecticut issued a similar order Thursday as long-term care and hospital workers are ordered to receive booster doses in the coming weeks.

Debate on Covid-19 safety measures in schools

As child hospitalizations hit new records, concerns over student safety remain sky-high. Yet disagreements are playing out this week in several school districts over whether personal learning is ideal during the Omicron wave.
Child hospitalizations reach record highs as Omicron variant gains the upper hand

Nearly 13% of New York City students tested positive for Covid-19 over a 24-hour period, according to sample tests from the city’s Department of Education on Thursday. According to additional DOE data, no schools are currently closed due to Covid-19 cases, but six classrooms remain closed.

The Chicago Public Schools system has canceled classes since Wednesday over a dispute between city officials and the teachers’ union over return to the classroom, and Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she wants a deal between the two sides to be finalized this weekend.
“Our kids have to go back to school. Schools are safe,” she told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

The Chicago Teachers Union had voted to teach remotely because of the Covid-19 wave, but the school district canceled classes, saying it wanted in-person learning.

Georgia public school teachers who test positive for coronavirus may return to school if asymptomatic and masked
In Georgia, public school teachers who test positive for Covid-19 are no longer required to isolate before entering school, and contact tracing in schools is no longer required, according to a letter to school principals released Thursday by Governor Brian Kemp and Public Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey.

The Georgia Department of Public Health posted an updated administrative order on Wednesday allowing teachers and school staff – regardless of vaccination status – to return to work after exposure to Covid-19 or a positive Covid-19 test if they remain asymptomatic and wear masks. while at work.

“Students, parents and educators have made it clear to us that they want to be in the classroom, and we are exploring many methods to continue safe, personalized learning — including updated quarantine and isolation protocols, reduced contact tracing requirements, and improved testing capabilities,” he said. Kemp and Toomey’s letter.

Local school districts can still develop and monitor their own quarantine and isolation requirements, according to the order.

Naomi Thomas, Deidre McPhillips, Kaitlan Collins, Chris Boyette, Michelle Watson, Carma Hassan, Laura Dolan, Steve Almasy, Raja Razek and Rob Frehse of CNN contributed to this report.

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