The United States will deploy another 1,000 military health workers to help staff in hospitals around the country, the White House announced on Thursday.
This will be the second deployment of National Guard troops in healthcare facilities around the nation, the first one coming in December of 2021, in a bid to help struggling healthcare workers who are stretched beyond their limits as the number of patients skyrockets.
Although most facilities have not exceeded their patient limits, the number of healthcare workers testing positive for the coronavirus — even with the shortened isolation periods now called for by the CDC — means that there are staffing shortages in hospitals all across the country.
US to deploy military to help fight Covid-19
National Guard troops were deployed in Maine in December in one of the earliest uses of the soldiers in the US as the state labored under worker shortages. Those Guard members were used in positions, such as infusing patients with antibody treatment, that do not require medical degrees.
New teams of up to 25 military doctors, nurses and other personnel will soon be deployed in facilities in Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio and Rhode Island as early as next week, according to a new report from Reuters on Thursday.
They will be used to support the vital work going on in emergency departments, allowing hospital staff to focus their efforts on the pressing medical needs at hand, a White House official stated in the announcement.
President Biden spoke to the nation on Thursday morning about his administration’s response to the pandemic, alongside U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell.
Biden stated that he has authorized the release of free, surgical-quality masks for all Americans starting next week; in addition, there will be another 500 million free tests available to the public on top of the 500 million that he promised earlier would be available through a new website, which will come online later in January.
Regarding the deployment of the military, Criswell told interviewers from CNN that “The number one request continues to be staffing,” adding that additional states will most likely need crews of military and other federally-employed physicians and nurses to help keep things running and patients safe as the Omicron variant of the virus continues to sweep across the US.
Federal “surge teams” have been deployed around the nation ever since July of last year to help in the fight against the Delta variant, which is still responsible for many hospitalizations in the US.
Biden directed Austin to assemble another 1,000 federal medical personnel to help in the medical facilities in December, sending over 100 of them to the states of Arizona, Indiana, Michigan, New Hampshire, Vermont and Wisconsin.
Meanwhile, governors, who have the power to activate National Guard troops, have taken advantage of that in states like Maine, which are plagued with healthcare staffing shortages in the best of times.
Hospitalizations for those suffering with Covid-19 broke another record this week after several weeks of increases; Omicron has now overtaken Delta as the dominant variant.
According to Reuters’ calculations, the average number of coronavirus-related hospitalizations in the US last week came to 133,871, causing many facilities to postpone elective surgeries.
Although by all accounts the Omicron variant causes less severe illness, there are so very many people now testing positive for the variant that the required isolations and quarantines have led to critical staffing shortages.
As a result, some states have resorted to declaring emergencies as a way to get around regulations and loosen up federal funding to deal with these issues.
Meanwhile, the Astra Zeneca pharmaceuticals firm announced on Thursday that their vaccine, which has been renamed “Vaxevria,” shows that a third dose helps fight off Omicron.
According to the company, preliminary data from one of its trials indicated that there was an increase in antibodies against Omicron as well as other variants after a third inoculation.
This occurred also against the Delta variant, which is still circulating in the population, according to blood analyses of subjects who were previously vaccinated with either Vaxzevria or an mRNA-based vaccine like that from Pfizer and Moderna.
Astra Zeneca officials stated that they would submit this data to regulators all over the world as soon as possible.
The Thursday statement said that the company’s findings “add to the growing body of evidence supporting Vaxzevria as a third dose booster irrespective of the primary vaccination schedules tested.”
AstraZeneca and its partners have produced more than 2.5 billion doses of its vaccine, although it is still not approved for use in the United States.