Yet again, hospitals and healthcare systems are getting crushed by Covid-19. For many healthcare professionals and front-line workers, this is eerily reminiscent of March 2020, when much was still unknown about the virus and every day at work seemed like a life-risking endeavor. Many things have changed since then. Most importantly, the advent of effective vaccines against the virus has made the battle against Covid-19 that much more fruitful. Additionally, more is now known about the virus, including about how it mutates and what to somewhat expect with variants and their respective surges. However, some things have stayed the same since the inception of the pandemic, including dire amounts of misinformation, vaccine hesitancy, and a generalized disregard by many in following public health recommendations.
Currently, the world is facing a massive surge in Covid-19 coronavirus cases, due in large part to the Omicron variant of the virus. Public health organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) contend that this new variant “likely will spread more easily than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus,” which explains the rampantly growing rates of infection worldwide. However, the true severity of the disease and the long-term effects caused by this new variant are still largely a mystery, as healthcare organizations are still grappling with navigating this immediate crisis.
Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released alarming data, indicating that over the last 7 days, the case count number amounts to nearly 4.7 million people and nearly 10,000+ deaths, a 52.2% and 31.4%, change from the previous week, respectively. Indeed, these figures are jarring.
These findings are likely a large part of why earlier today, President Joe Biden announced a momentous initiative: the plan to deploy military personnel to support hospitals systems that are overwhelmed by Covid-19.
In his speech, President Biden explained: “I know we’re all frustrated as we enter this new year. The Omicron variant is causing millions of cases and record hospitalizations. I’ve been — I’ve been saying that, as we remain in this pandemic, this is a pandemic of the unvaccinated. And I mean by this: Right now, both vaccinated and unvaccinated people are testing positive, but what happens after that could not be more different. If vaccinated people test positive, they overwhelmingly have either no symptoms at all or they have mild symptoms. And if they’re — if you’re unvaccinated — if they test positive — there are — you are 17 times more likely to get hospitalized.”
He emphatically remarked: “…as long as we have tens of millions of people who will not get vaccinated, we’re going to have full hospitals and needless deaths.”
Thus, President Biden continued on to announce his multi-step plan. First and foremost, he reiterated the importance of vaccinations. Next, he went on to discuss the importance of masking, and how “We’ve more than tripled our stockpile of the most protective, specialized N95 masks since coming into office. This is going to make sure that there will be an ample supply [for] healthcare workers and first responders.” He also discussed increasing testing capacity, ensuring that more Covid-19 tests will be available to all Americans, moving forward.
Perhaps most importantly, President Biden also went on to explain his efforts to aid hospitals and healthcare systems in distress: “Today, I’m announcing our next deployment of six additional federal medical teams, a total of more than 120 military medical personnel, to six hard-hit states: Michigan, [New Mexico], New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Rhode Island.” This is in addition to “over 800 military and other federal emergency personnel [that] have been deployed to 24 states, Tribes, and territories, including over 350 military doctors, nurses, and medics” since Thanksgiving, as well as “the more than 14,000 National Guard members that are active — activated in 49 states.”
This is certainly not a feeble commitment, given the significant amount of resources, time, human effort, and costs the gesture will entail. Rather, it is boldly indicative of President Biden’s fortitude in fighting this pandemic head-on, as the initiative is meant to provide those on the front-lines with some semblance of support, comradery, and hope. Furthermore, with the current trajectory of this surge, this extra help could not be better timed; healthcare professionals have never faced higher levels of burnout; hospital systems are getting crushed by record-breaking patient volumes; and many bystanders that need acute care have no beds and nowhere to go. Indeed, times are tough.
However, perhaps President Biden said it best, as he concluded his inspirational speech today: “COVID-19 is one of the most formidable enemies America has ever faced. We’ve got to work together, not against each other. We’re America. We can do this.”