Monday, February 7, 2022 | Kaiser Health News

900,000 Americans Already Lost With Covid Deaths On The Rise

As the nation passed this terrible milestone, President Joe Biden on Friday urged the unvaccinated to reconsider and estimated that over 1 million American lives have been saved by the covid vaccines.

The Washington Post:
Biden Marks 900,000 Covid-19 Deaths And Urges: ‘Get Vaccinated, Get Your Kids Vaccinated’

President Biden on Friday urged all Americans to get vaccinated, as he marked another “tragic milestone” in the coronavirus pandemic. “900,000 American lives have been lost to COVID-19,” he said in a late-night statement issued Friday. “They were beloved mothers and fathers, grandparents, children, brothers and sisters, neighbors, and friends. ”The death toll would have been higher without coronavirus vaccines, Biden said, estimating they had “saved more than one million American lives,” as he urged unvaccinated Americans to “get vaccinated, get your kids vaccinated, and get your booster shot if you are eligible.” (Timsit, 2/5)

The New York Times:
U.S. Covid Death Toll Surpasses 900,000 As Omicron’s Spread Slows 

More than 2,600 Americans are dying from Covid-19 each day, an alarming rate that has climbed by 30 percent in the past two weeks. Across the United States, the coronavirus pandemic has now claimed more than 900,000 lives. Yet another, simultaneous reality of the pandemic offers reason for hope. The number of new coronavirus infections is plummeting, falling by more than half since mid-January. Hospitalizations are also declining, a relief to stressed health care workers who have been treating desperately ill coronavirus patients for nearly two years. (Bosman and Smith, 2/4)

US Reports More Than 900,000 Total Covid-19 Deaths

Experts believe the true burden of disease to be much higher. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the number of Covid-19 deaths in the US was about 32% higher than reported between February 2020 and September 2021. (McPhillips, 2/4)

NBC News:
900,000 Dead: Covid Deaths Are Surging In Low-Vaccination States

The country has recorded 100,000 deaths since Dec. 13. During that period, Tennessee, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania have the largest number of deaths when adjusted for population. Of those states, Pennsylvania is the only one to have fully vaccinated more than 60 percent of its population. “Fully vaccinated” means that at least two weeks have passed since a person has received the second dose of a two-dose vaccine or one dose of a single-dose vaccine. (Chiwaya, 2/4)

More Health Care Hiring In January, Despite Omicron

An estimated 18,000 health care jobs were added in January, up from December’s 14,300 total, even as omicron covid hospitalizations soared. Separately, hospital executives say that recruitment and staff retention is their top priority.

Modern Healthcare:
Healthcare Hiring Ramped Up In January Even As Omicron Raged

Healthcare employment was more resilient than expected in January as companies picked up hiring even as COVID-19 hospitalizations reached a record high. Healthcare companies added an estimated 18,000 jobs in the first month of 2022, up from 14,300 in December, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report issued Friday. The industry’s strong showing contributed to 467,000 new jobs recorded across the economy, which was far more than economists projected. (Bannow, 2/4)

Modern Healthcare:
Recruitment And Retention Is The Top Priority, Hospital Execs Say

UW Health recently had 3,600 nursing shifts to fill over a six-week period. The integrated health system, like so many across country, has turned to staffing agencies to fill workforce gaps. But that created friction between its in-house staff and travel nurses, who are often being paid at least twice as much. On Jan. 16, UW Health implemented a new program for its around 3,400 nurses to ease some of that tension, offering a $100 hourly bonus for nurses who add a 12-hour shift to their normal weekly schedule. The Madison-based system filled 92% of its open shifts within of a week of the program’s announcement. (Kacik, 2/4)

In related news about health care workers —

The Baltimore Sun:
Programs In Maryland Aim To Attract And Keep The ‘Starry-Eyed’ Among Nurses Amid Bruising Pandemic 

Sophia Rois Geffen was working in public health when she decided to train as a nurse so she could connect more closely with people. With graduation from the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing about six months away, she and other fellow Hopkins nursing students realized most patients won’t see their faces, masked against the persistent coronavirus. It’s one of the many ways the landscape has changed and challenged nurses in the past two years. But it’s not deterring Geffen and her classmates from running headlong into a pandemic that pushed many experienced professionals to the exits and created a massive shortage of nurses nationwide. “We all came in pretty starry-eyed,” she said. “Now, we understand it’s a challenging time just to be in the profession.” (Cohn, 2/7)

Detroit Free Press:
Whitmer Proposes $3 Billion Extra For Front-Line Workers, Police, Other ‘Heroes’

Michiganders working in elementary school classrooms, at grocery store checkout lines, driving city buses and serving in any number of other vital jobs amid the ongoing pandemic may be in line for a payday. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will propose $500 million in one-time “hero pay” benefits intended for a yet-undefined group of Michigan workers and $50 million for similar payments to law enforcement officers, firefighters, first responders and correctional officers. That is in addition to $1.65 billion for teacher and school staff retention, first reported Sunday by the Free Press, she will propose when she presents her 2023 budget recommendations this week to state lawmakers along with extra billions to be spent in the current financial year. (Boucher, 2/7)

Dallas Morning News:
Hospitals Are Relying More On Expensive Travel Nurses In A Cycle That Has No End In Sight

Travel nurses make more on average than most nurses employed full-time at hospitals, as travel nurse agencies charge high premiums to fill staffing holes. Many nurses are leaving full-time positions for more lucrative travel jobs, opening even more positions for hospitals to fill. With every new opening, travel agencies are able to hike up their rates. However, hospitals don’t blame travel nurses on their increased supplemental staffing expenses, Love said.
“For the nurses that enter the workforce and go to be traveling nurses, we’re certainly not being critical of them in any way,” he said. “We understand. They have to look at their own individual situation and make their best choice.” (Wolf, 2/7)

CBS News:
Staff Shortages, COVID Patients Pushing Hospitals To Breaking Point 

In much of the country, the number of COVID cases is falling. The Omicron variant may result in less severe illness, but inside many of the country’s hospitals, the work is more demanding than ever. That’s largely because – according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics – nearly 400,000 health care workers have left since the start of the pandemic. Last month, hospitals in 18 states reported critical staff shortages. (Alfonsi, 2/6)

U.S. Troops Reinforce Hospitals In Covid’s Battle Of Attrition

University Hospital in Newark, New Jersey, is besieged with Covid patients packing its intensive-care unit, where rooms have been improvised from plastic sheeting and staff have fallen victim to the disease. The U.S. Army is reinforcing its defenses. Captain Jamie Dowd, a nurse who has treated ghastly trauma in Syria and Iraq, was sent to the hospital on a 30-day mission with 24 other troops to help fight the worst wave of Covid-19 cases since the deadly spring of 2020. Plucked from Fort Polk in Louisiana, Dowd last week peered out from the shadows of a room in the Newark progressive-care unit. (Griffin, 2/4)

Bounties And Bonuses Leave Small Hospitals Behind In Staffing Wars 

A recent lawsuit filed by one Wisconsin health system that temporarily prevented seven workers from starting new jobs at a different health network raised eyebrows, including those of Brock Slabach, chief operations officer of the National Rural Health Association. “To me, that signifies the desperation that hospital leaders are facing in trying to staff their hospitals,” said Slabach. His concern is for the smaller facilities that lack the resources to compete. (Sable-Smith, 2/7)

Also —

The Baltimore Sun:
‘A Target On My Back:’ Baltimore County Health Officer Backs Bill Criminalizing Threats Against Health Officials 

Baltimore County health department employees are being harassed regularly as they try to perform their duties, according to the county’s top health official, who on Friday urged state lawmakers to pass legislation that would criminalize threats against public health employees. “We’re being threatened, we’re being harassed and we’re being intimidated,” Baltimore County’s public health officer Dr. Gregory Branch told county representatives during a House delegation meeting Friday. The legislation — sponsored by Del. Karen Lewis Young of Frederick County and several Democratic House and Senate lawmakers from Baltimore, Frederick, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties — would make it a misdemeanor to threaten public health employees and hospital staff members with the intent to intimidate or interfere with their ability to work. (Deville, 2/4)

NBC News:
These Health Care Workers Say They Were Fired After Raising Safety Concerns

Marian Weber says she wanted to make Ketchikan, Alaska, her forever home. With its widespread greenery and rainy days, and waterfront crowded by houses, it was a long-awaited dream. And staying for good seemed like a real possibility. Weber, 47, was a travel nurse contracted to work at the city-owned Ketchikan Hospital, run by PeaceHealth, a not-for-profit health care system. She says she arrived in April 2021, and the hospital renewed her contract in August before promptly terminating it within the same month. (Lee, 2/6)

Florida Fights Back Against Turning Over Daily Covid Data

A lawsuit alleges the state Department of Health violated public records laws by turning down requests for daily covid figures.

News Service of Florida:
Florida Files An Appeal Over Turning Down Requests For Daily COVID-19 Data 

The Florida Department of Health has gone to an appeals court in a battle about whether it should provide daily COVID-19 data, as it seeks to be shielded from explaining officials’ decision-making about releasing the information. Attorneys for the department filed a petition late Wednesday at the 1st District Court of Appeal as part of a lawsuit filed in August by the Florida Center for Government Accountability and state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando, and later joined by several media organizations. The underlying lawsuit alleges the Department of Health violated public records laws by turning down requests for daily COVID-19 data. The data, in part, would have provided county and demographic information about COVID-19 cases. (Saunders, 2/4)

In other news about the spread of covid —

Texas Tribune:
Texas COVID-19 Hospitalizations Down As Omicron Wave Appears To Crest

After an anxious January marked by a wave of COVID-19 infections that pushed Texas hospitals and intensive care units to their limits, the number of Texans in the hospital with COVID-19 across the state has been in a steady decline for over a week, according to state health data. The decrease is the latest in a series of hopeful signs that the surge driven by the highly contagious omicron variant may be starting to abate, forecasters and health officials say. If the trend continues, the state would have passed its peak hospitalizations for this wave on Jan. 20, when Texas hospitals reported 13,371 patients with COVID-19 — a number that has decreased daily since then. That falls short of the record 14,218 hospitalizations the state saw a year ago on Jan. 11, 2021. (Brooks Harper, Essig and Luis Martínez, 2/6)

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Wisconsin Officials Think COVID Cases Will Keep Falling Despite Subvariant

State health officials are “optimistic” that COVID-19 cases will continue to decline despite the emergence of a subvariant of omicron believed to spread more easily than the original form of omicron. Ryan Westergaard, chief medical officer for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, said during a media briefing Thursday that it is still unclear what the implications of the subvariant, known as BA.2, will be. It was first detected in Wisconsin last month and still represents a tiny fraction of COVID-19 cases in the state. Despite the subvariant being more contagious, he said he is “optimistic” the omicron surge will continue to subside. (Volpenhein, 2/4)

Detroit Free Press:
Michigan Surpasses 2 Million COVID-19 Cases

The Michigan health department reported 9,805 new COVID-19 cases over a two-day period Friday, an average of 4,903 per day, bringing Michigan to 2,009,221 confirmed cases since the beginning of the pandemic.Another 209 coronavirus-related deaths were also reported Friday, 155 of which were identified in a regular vital records review. This increases the state’s COVID-19 death toll to 30,379. (Marini, 2/4)

Also —

New Conditions Common 1 To 5 Months After Positive COVID Test 

A cohort study of Americans tested for SARS-CoV-2 infection shows that new-onset shortness of breath, heart rhythm abnormalities, and type 2 diabetes were more common 31 to 150 days after testing positive for COVID-19 than among those with negative results. The research was published today in JAMA Network Open. (Van Beusekom, 2/4)

Albany Times Union:
After 130 Days In The Hospital, A New York COVID-19 Patient Finally Gets To Go Home

Tommy Raus arrived home Friday morning. That’s a major accomplishment, considering that on Sept. 13, 2021 he began a harrowing COVID-19 journey that saw him face death numerous times during a 130-day stay at St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany. The 47-year-old Raus went from being unable to breathe on his own or even move his toes in the hospital as his health collapsed to where he is now moving and talking and settling into completing his recovery at home with visits from nurses and therapists. “I’m on oxygen now. I was in such bad pain,” Raus said in a telephone interview Thursday from Sunnyview Rehabilitation Hospital in Schenectady where he spent 14 days after leaving St. Peter’s. “It’s just so hard to deal with this.” (Crowe II, 2/6)

ABC News:
Parents Name Baby Boy After Doctor Who Treated Mom For COVID-19 

A couple in Texas have paid the ultimate tribute to a doctor who went above and beyond to help their family last year. Diana Crouch, 28, and Chris Crouch, 37, welcomed a baby boy last November and named him Cameron, after one of Diana’s doctors. The couple credit Dr. Cameron Dezfulian, the medical director of the Adult Congenital Heart Disease, ICU unit at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, with helping to save both Diana and Cameron’s lives. (2/7)

The New York Times:
2 Men In Miami Sentenced For Stealing 192 Ventilators Bound For El Salvador 

Two men in Miami have each been sentenced to 41 months in prison for stealing medical ventilators bound for a Covid-19 care facility in El Salvador as part of a U.S. aid program, federal authorities in Florida said on Friday. The crime occurred in August 2020, according to a news release issued by the U.S. attorney’s office in the Southern District of Florida after the sentencing of the second of the two men. (Medina, 2/5)

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