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Omicron surge in US leads to shortage of medical staff

The latest Covid-19 resurgence in the US fuelled by the highly transmissible Omicron variant is leading to a critical shortage of medical staff across the country.

About 24 per cent of the 5,000 US hospitals have a “critical staffing shortage”, Xinhua news agency reported citing the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as saying on Monday.

More than 100 other hospitals have said they are anticipating shortages within the next week.

This is the largest share of hospital shortages since the HHS began releasing the data in November 2020.

These staff shortages kept growing as frontline health care workers are either infected or forced to quarantine due to exposure to Covid-19, said the Department.

At least 10 states have deployed National Guard to help overwhelmed hospitals, according to CNN report.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam issued a state of emergency on Monday for hospitals.

The 30-day state of emergency aims to allow hospitals to increase staffing and bed capacity as hospitalisations hit record levels due to the surge in coronavirus cases and the rise in flu cases.

Child hospitalisations also soared to the highest level of the pandemic.

At the Los Angeles Children’s Hospital, the positivity rate of children tested for Covid-19 increased from 17.5 per cent in December 2021 to 45 per cent this month, according the hospital’s medical director Michael Smit.

Los Angeles Unified School District, the second-largest school district in the country, is requiring all students and employees to test negative before returning to the classroom.

The recent record-high new Covid-19 cases in the US have put additional pressure on the overwhelmed health care system.

“While early data suggest Omicron infections might be less severe than those of other variants, the increases in cases and hospitalisations are expected to stress the healthcare system in the coming weeks,” said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Nearly 5 million new cases were reported across the country from January 2 to 8, a record high weekly increase since the onset of the pandemic in the country, according to data of Johns Hopkins University.

Up to 11,000 new deaths were reported this past week.

Currently the country is averaging nearly 700,000 cases each day, the most significant infection surge to date, CDC data showed.

The CDC projected that the Omicron variant may account for approximately 95 per cent of new cases in the country.

Health experts have been urging the unvaccinated and those eligible for boost shots to get vaccination as soon as possible.

At least 65.5 million eligible Americans remain unvaccinated.