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Biden sends more military medics to US hospitals in COVID-19 hotspots

Biden sends more military medics to US hospitals in COVID-19 hotspots

  • Six US states receive first-wave federal staff
  • Biden Says Deployment Will Help Manage Omicron Peak
  • Tensed US hospitals welcome aid but fear it isn’t enough

WASHINGTON, Jan. 13 (Reuters) – President Joe Biden said on Thursday he would deploy more military health workers to hospitals in six US states, giving Americans free masks and more free tests to help spread the rapidly spreading Omicron variant in the country. to take.

Phased deployment of 1,000 military health personnel starting next week comes as US COVID-19 hospitalizations reach a record high with Omicron overtaking Delta as the dominant strain of the coronavirus and health facilities facing a staff shortage.

The move is “part of a major effort by our nation’s armed forces to help hospitals across the country contain this wave of the Omicron virus,” Biden said.

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“I know we’re all frustrated as we head into this new year,” Biden said, reiterating his message that COVID-19 is still an “unvaccinated pandemic.”

In the first wave of the deployment, teams of military doctors, nurses and other personnel will travel to Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio and Rhode Island to support emergency rooms of adequate capacity and free up overwhelmed hospital staff for non-patients. -COVID cases, the White House said.

But with teams ranging in size from seven to 25, hospitals that would receive the health workers welcomed the aid but warned it wouldn’t be enough to fight the wave.

“There is no panacea,” said Bob Riney, president of health operations for the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, which has already received federal aid and expects to welcome new military medics next week.

“We have systemic challenges (with) incredible volume and very, very tired doctors … and that’s true of all health systems that were in the middle of this wave,” Riney said. White House’s more aggressive stance follows months of criticism from health experts that the government relied too heavily on vaccines alone to stop the spread of the coronavirus, especially given a politically motivated anti-vaccine movement pushed by some Republican officials. According to US data, about 62% of Americans are considered fully vaccinated.

Deanne Criswell, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, joined Biden during his speech.

She previously told CNN that the main request from states requesting federal aid is “remaining manned.” Other states also likely need reinforcements from military and other federal doctors and nurses, she said.

A health professional leads a student to the end of the row at a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing site set up for returning students, faculty and staff at New York University (NYU) main campus in Manhattan, New York City , New York, US, August 18, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Segar

MORE TESTS AND MASK

Biden also announced that he would direct the US government to purchase an additional 500 million COVID-19 tests to meet rising demand across the country. The White House had previously promised that 500 million tests would be available to Americans by January.

The president also said the government will announce next week that it will make high-quality masks available for free, noting that about a third of Americans report not wearing a mask.

The Biden administration began deploying federal COVID teams last summer. In December, he ordered his Secretary of Defense to prepare an additional 1,000 medical troops and dispatched more than 100 federal medical personnel to Arizona, Indiana, Michigan, New Hampshire, Vermont and Wisconsin.

Hospitals in some states are nearing or nearing capacity.

New Jersey had 6,089 COVID patients hospitalized on Wednesday, a Reuters tally showed. About 73% of hospital beds in the state are registered, as are 53% of intensive care (ICU) beds.

In Rhode Island, where the Department of Health and Human Services said 86% of the hospital and 90% of the ICU beds are filled, hospital officials hoped federal aid would make up for the staff shortage caused by Omicron infections for staff who have lost many of them. affects health systems.

With a large number of hospital staff falling ill with COVID, the wave has “caused a lot of stress on the system in a world where it’s hard to staff the beds we have,” said Saul Weingart, president of Rhode Island Hospital. adding that his hospital expects to receive 20 military health workers.

Several states have already declared states of emergency to relax regulations and free up funding to deal with the wave caused by Omicron.

In the United States, an average of 133,871 people were hospitalized with COVID in the past week, the Reuters count showed. The rise has forced several states to postpone elective surgeries.

To date, 847,664 people have died from COVID-19 in the United States, of the 63,268,225 total cases reported as the outbreak enters its third year.

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Reporting by Susan Heavey, Steve Holland Nandita Bose and Rami Ayyub in Washington, Maria Caspani in New York and Lisa Shumaker in Chicago; Editing by Heather Timmons, Howard Goller and Bill Berkrot

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