Coronavirus update: Hospitals are being pushed to the brink by staffing crisis

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Testing sites are nearly overwhelmed

Coronavirus (COVID-19) ‌tally‌ ‌as‌ ‌‌compiled‌‌ ‌by‌ ‌Johns‌ ‌Hopkins‌ ‌University.‌ ‌(Previous‌ ‌numbers‌ ‌in‌ ‌parentheses.)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌ 63,232,336 (62,712,731)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 844,631 (843,590)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 317,485,959 (315,350,735)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 5,516,175 (5,510,252)‌

U.S. hospitals face COVID-19 crisis

In city after city and state after state, hospitals are filling up with COVID-19 patients. U.S. health officials say the number of pandemic-related hospitalizations is at an all-time high, pushing medical staff to the brink.

Some states have mobilized the national guard to provide some relief. The Biden administration is ready to deploy 1,000 U.S. military medical personnel at the hardest-hit health care facilities around the country.

"The sudden and steep rise in cases due to Omicron is resulting in unprecedented daily case counts, sickness, absenteeism, and strains on our health care system," said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Americans are flocking to testing sites

Hospitals aren’t the only institutions that are being nearly overwhelmed by the coronavirus. Sites around the country that administer COVID-19 tests are also seeing long lines of people.

People who aren’t lining up at test centers are often going from drug store to drug store to look for an at-home test kit, which has been hard to find since the Omicron variant quickly spread across the nation.

"About every fourth person walking into the store is trying to find a kit," Asa Wooten, a Drug Emporium pharmacy technician in Lubbock, Texas, told Reuters. "Within the first hour of being open today I had 10 people come up here and ask me about kits, and we have people calling all the time."

Hemp may block COVID-19, researchers say

Researchers at Oregon State University (OSU) report that chemicals in hemp may have the ability to prevent the virus that causes COVID-19 from entering human cells.

The scientists say they found that a pair of cannabinoid acids can bind to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, blocking a critical step in the process that the virus uses to infect people. The findings were published in the Journal of Nature Products. 

“These cannabinoid acids are abundant in hemp and in many hemp extracts,” said Richard van Breemen, one of the researchers. “They are not controlled substances like THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, and have a good safety profile in humans.”

Around the nation

  • Tennessee: The Tennessee Housing Development Agency has initiated a program aimed at helping those who have faced financial hardships due to the pandemic. Applicants could receive up to $40,000 to help pay for housing costs, including past-due mortgage payments.

  • Minnesota: Gov. Tim Walz is proposing additional financial aid for Minnesota hospitals that are trying to cope with the latest COVID-19 surge. The governor has requested $40 million from the American Rescue Plan to be allocated to pay additional health care providers.

  • Utah: Education officials have implemented a "Test to Stay" protocol that requires students to test negative before they can attend in-person classes. The protocols take effect when schools with 1,500 or more students have 2% of their students test positive for COVID-19.

  • Illinois: State health officials report that 90% of the state’s intensive care unit (ICU) beds are filled, mostly with COVID-19 patients. Meanwhile, Chicago nurses say they will hold a rally today to demand safe staffing and improved protection for nurses.

  • Wisconsin: The Wisconsin Department of Health Services has placed all 72 counties in the state in the “critically high” category for the spread of COVID-19. Milwaukee, Ozaukee, and Washington are the only counties where case numbers have declined, but all three remain at critically high levels.

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