With so many states seeing a flood of coronavirus patients, U.S. hospitals are again worried about finding enough medical workers to meet demand just as infections from the holiday season threaten to add to the burden on American health care.
California, which is enduring by far its worst spike in cases and hospitalizations, is reaching out to places like Australia and Taiwan to fill the need for 3,000 temporary medical workers, particularly nurses trained in critical care.
“We’re now in a situation where we have surges all across the country, so nobody has many nurses to spare,” said Dr. Janet Coffman, a professor of public policy at the University of California in San Francisco.
Hospitals in some states have enlisted retired nurses and students. In Alabama, more than 120 students and faculty members from the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s nursing school began helping with care last week at UAB Hospital.
“I know our biggest concern is staff, even more concerned about that than physical beds and physical ICU units,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said Tuesday.
Elected leaders and health officials across the U.S. are asking people to stay home for the holidays while also trying show the public that the COVID-19 vaccines trickling out to health care workers and nursing home residents are safe.
A day after getting vaccinated on live television, President-elect Joe Biden said Tuesday that he has full confidence in the vaccine. He also thanked front-line workers, scientists, researchers and clinical trial participants while urging Americans to avoid large gatherings over the Christmas holidays.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, received the initial dose of the newest vaccine, produced by Moderna, alongside other federal health leaders who helped oversee its development.
In other developments:
- President Donald Trump is expected in coming days to sign a $900 billion pandemic relief bill that cleared Congress on Monday. It would establish a temporary $300 per week supplemental jobless benefit and a $600 direct stimulus payment to most Americans. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says direct payments will begin arriving in bank accounts next week.
- Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus response, said Tuesday she plans to retire, but is willing to first help President-elect Joe Biden's team with its coronavirus response as needed.
- The Federal Bureau of Prisons says it has started to give the coronavirus vaccine to some high-risk inmates but won’t say how many inmates have been vaccinated or how it selects those to receive the vaccine.
- The U.S. population grew by the smallest rate in at least 120 years from 2019 to 2020, according to figures released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau — a trend that demographers say provides a glimpse of the coronavirus pandemic’s toll.
- Largely because of the pandemic, this is shaping up as the deadliest year in U.S. history, with deaths expected to exceed 3 million for the first time. The 2020 death rate could be at least 15% higher than last year's, once December totals are tallied.
- Though most people who protect themselves with a coronavirus vaccine will never develop serious side effects, such rare cases are barred from federal court and instead steered to an obscure program with a record of seldom paying claims.
- Experts say businesses can require COVID-19 vaccinations for employees, but that doesn't mean they will.
- The coronavirus pandemic is dragging down U.S. consumer confidence during the crucial holiday season, which could make or break a number of retailers, airlines, restaurants and other sectors.