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COVID-19 Is Adding to Critical Hospital Staffing Shortages

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What You Need to Know

  • The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the South African where omicron came to light has increased to 3,168, from 2,306, in a week.
  • More 18% of U.S. hospitals now are reporting critical staffing shortages on a typical day.
  • In one state in New England, half of the hospitals are reporting critical staffing shortages.

The omicron variant of COVID-19 could slam U.S. hospitals in coming weeks if it makes many people seriously ill, and that could cause more claim cost problems for providers of life insurance, disability insurance, and life or disability reinsurance.

About 18% of hospitals are already reporting that they are suffering severe staffing shortages, and, in some states, more than one-third of the hospitals are reporting critical staffing shortages.

The number of confirmed and suspected omicron cases is increasing rapidly in communities all around the world that undergo intensive, mandatory testing, including on the Cornell and Princeton campuses.

Dr. Jay Varma, an epidemiology professor in New York City, today reported that the percentage of city residents tested for COVID-19 who actually have COVID-19 increased to 7.8% Dec. 12, from 3.9% Dec. 9, and that the omicron variant is the likely cause of the positivity spike.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting that, during the week ending Dec. 8, one of the 43 people known to have the omicron variant was already in the hospital.

In Gauteng, a province in South Africa that had been suffering a welcome drop in the number of COVID-19 cases to near zero, the omicron variant has been driving a rapid increase in the number of known and the number of COVID-19-related hospitalizations since early November. Some have suggested that cases caused by the omicron variant may be more mild than the cases caused by earlier variants, especially in vaccinated people. But the number of people in Gauteng hospitals who have COVID-19 has increased to 3,168 today, from 2,306 a week ago.

The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the South African where omicron came to light has increased to 3,168, from 2,306, in a week, according to South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases.

U.S. doctors and nurses are going on social media to complain about fragile patients sent home too early, about seriously ill patients parked in hallways and in chairs in waiting rooms, and about well-known hospitals having to call around to find ventilators.

The percentage of U.S. hospitals reporting critical staffing problems on a given day spiked in January 2021, as COVID-19 mortality was spiking; fell to around 10% in the summer; then climbed back up over 15% in September, as the COVID-19 delta variant caused a big, deadly variant.

Mortality appeared to ease, but the percentage of hospitals reporting critical staffing shortages stayed high, suggesting that, in some states, any patients with serious conditions, including conditions unrelated to COVID-19, may be having a more difficult time getting an appropriate level of care.

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(Photo: Shutterstock)