Biden to Provide 500 Million Rapid COVID Tests and to Deploy 1,000 Healthcare Workers to Provide Care at Understaffed Hospitals

Biden to Provide 500 Million Rapid COVID Tests and to Deploy 1,000 Healthcare Workers to Provide Care at Understaffed Hospitals

By Yehudit Garmaise

After the Omicron variant accounted for 73% of new COVID infections nationwide yesterday, after it was only first detected in the US weeks ago, President Joe Biden is expected to announce today the purchase of 500 million at-home rapid COVID-19 tests, as Americans wait in long lines and search for tests in drugstores to determine their COVID statuses.

The president is expected to reassure that the country is prepared to care for increased levels of COVID patients, while, at the same time, he will issue a "stark warning" to unvaccinated Americans “who continue to drive hospitalizations and deaths,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said yesterday, who added, "This is not a speech about locking the country down.”

In addition to increasing the supply of rapid COVID tests that will be delivered by mail, President Biden has promised to deploy 1,000 military medical personnel to understaffed hospitals.

Mitch Katz, MD, the CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals, the largest public health care system in the United States, explained yesterday that in March 2020 when hospitals were overburdened, “it was not about physical space It's all about staffing.

“And I am concerned about loss of staff due to Omicron.”

While Dr. Katz said that NYC Health + Hospitals are not now seeing large of numbers of hospitalized patients overwhelming us, he is concerned that his healthcare employees will “get Omicron and then will need to be isolated: And that will result in our having fewer staff.”

To free up healthcare workers in New York City, Dr. Katz explained that “starting this week, Health + Hospitals will be moving to almost all virtual visits in the ambulatory care area so that we can redeploy nurses and staff assistants into the hospitals, as well as to our testing sites,” he said about the preparations H + H is taking to prepare for the possibility of an increased number of COVID patients. 

Dr. Katz said that he and many other physicians will continue to see the majority of their patients online, and H +H will “maintain skeleton crews in our clinics so that when people do need to come in, they can be seen.”

What is freeing up staff the most in this latest COVID surge, Dr. Katz said, “is that the people who are being admitted generally are not requiring ventilation,” which requires one nurse for every two patients.

“When somebody just needs oxygen, then one nurse can often take care of five, six patients well.”

Dr. Katz said that H + H has “run scenarios” to prepare for a deluge of patients, and he “will deploy the correct staff and move patients around as necessary to our different facilities.”

“We are very agile,” said Dr. Katz. “We know how to do this. We are prepared.”

flicker / Gage Skidmore

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