With a new surge in COVID-19 cases, frustration grips Americans struggling to get tested days before Christmas, and long lines and increased demand overwhelm some facilities across the country.
The catalyst has been the rapid spread of the omicron variant, which has become the dominant strain in the US in a matter of weeks and has led to new measures to combat the spread.
Millions of people will be traveling or planning to participate in large family gatherings, so there is a rush to get tested, and many have been out of luck, whether it be getting rapid tests in clinics or buying home kits.
Long lines were seen Tuesday in New York City, Boston and Miami, as well as Ohio and Minnesota.
At the same time, CVS Health and Walgreens, the two largest drug chains in the US, announced that they will limit the number of home kits customers can purchase due to high demand.
And the demand is going to continue to grow, according to Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Research and Policy of Infectious Diseases at the University of Minnesota.
“We have some evidence. But the quantities that we are going to need, I think, over the course of the next two to eight weeks will be remarkable. We will see this huge increase across the country,” he predicted.
“I think we will see all 50 states in the soup around the same time. Therefore, the demand for tests is going to increase enormously,” Osterholm said.
And while the Biden administration plans to provide 500 million new tests by next month, the testing rush for the holidays is happening now.
“What has happened is that we have seen, with the tremendous spread of omicron, a huge increase in the demand for tests, and we have to keep up,” US Health Director Vivek Murthy said Tuesday. “I certainly feel sorry for people who cannot find evidence as easily as they would like”.
Admiral Dr. Brett Giroir, a former US Under Secretary for Health and Human Services, told Citizen Free Press he is concerned that the administration’s commitment to testing will not meet the demand.
“Unless we have a billion or two billion a month, I think we will still have to be selective to make sure that people who may die from the disease do not die from the disease,” he said.
Hospital bed shortage in some parts of the country
The increase in cases has also caused a shortage of hospital beds in parts of the country.
In Delaware, ChristianaCare Hospital is operating at more than 100% capacity, often reaching 110-115%, said President Sharon Kurfuerst.
“There are patients receiving care in the hallways because that’s the only place we have to put them in the Emergency Department right now,” Kurfuerst said.
He added that many people who delayed treatment for nearly two years for health problems unrelated to Covid-19 are currently in need of medical attention.
“That, coupled with the number of covid patients we are seeing today, is putting our health care system and resources to the test,” he said.
In Ohio, six hospitals in the Cleveland area ran a one-page ad in the local newspaper on Sunday asking for help.
“We need your help,” the ad read. “We now have more COVID-19 patients in our hospitals than ever before. And the vast majority are not vaccinated.”
Getting vaccinated is the most effective tool to prevent serious diseases. As of Tuesday, nearly 62% of the US population was fully vaccinated, while just over 30% have received a booster shot, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. USA (CDC).
Murthy, the director general of US Health, recalled that those who have been previously infected with COVID-19 and are not vaccinated are not fully protected against omicron.
“That’s not enough to go to a family gathering and say ‘this is as good as being vaccinated,'” Murthy told Citizen Free Press’s Wolf Blitzer. “So if you are not vaccinated, it is more urgent than ever to get vaccinated. If you are vaccinated, please get a booster dose.”
Local authorities impose measures to combat the surge
Some local authorities have reimposed new regulations to curb the spread of the virus.
In Chicago, customers of most businesses that serve food or beverages must show proof of vaccination beginning Jan. 3, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said. The measure will apply to all customers over 5 years of age in restaurants, bars, gyms, theaters and other entertainment and sports venues that serve food and drink.
“The unvaccinated are affecting the health, well-being and livelihoods of the rest of us,” Lightfoot said. “To control the spread, we have to limit the risk.”
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms also mobilized to reinstate the city’s indoor mask mandate, while the Massachusetts Department of Public Health recommends that all residents wear an indoor mask when not in their own homes. regardless of his vaccination status, authorities said Tuesday.
And in New York, the police department has seen an increase in the number of officers who say they are sick, including those fully vaccinated, according to figures shared with Citizen Free Press by a senior NYPD official.
Will the isolation period for covid-19 be reduced?
Amid the latest spike, authorities are considering shortening the 10-day isolation period for those who test positive, particularly healthcare workers, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday.
“For example, if you have a healthcare worker who is infected and is not showing any symptoms, you don’t want to put that person out of work for long, especially if we run out of hospital beds and have a shortage of healthcare personnel.” Said Fauci, who is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
The isolation period also affects airline personnel, prompting Delta Air Lines executives to ask the CDC to reduce the period to five days as Christmas approaches, adding that more than 90% of their strength work is vaccinated.
Murthy said officials are conducting an analysis on whether it is safe to shorten the isolation period.
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