Coronavirus update: Hospitals struggling amid staff shortages

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Studies confirm Omicron’s milder symptoms

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

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌ 60,138,842 (59,928,712)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 837,773 (837,407)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 307,589,090 (306,139,610)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 5,490,655 (5,487,422)‌

COVID-19 outbreak among nurses hits hospitals hard

As the latest outbreak of COVID-19 sends scores of patients to the nation’s hospitals, a record number of nurses are testing positive for the virus, making a bad staffing situation even worse. 

The Wall Street Journal reports that hospitals are coping by limiting admissions. According to the report, Mass General Brigham Hospital system in Boston kept 83 beds empty on Friday. The University Hospitals system in Ohio is limiting intensive care unit (ICU) admissions, and the Parkland Health & Hospital System in Dallas has removed 30 of 900 beds.

“It’s definitely a brutal situation,” Dr. Joseph Chang, chief medical officer at Parkland, told the Journal. Chang said 500 staffers called in sick on one day last week.

Omicron symptoms milder than Delta, researchers conclude

From the beginning of its emergence in South Africa, the Omicron variant was consistently described by doctors as having milder symptoms than the Delta variant of COVID-19. Now, scientific studies have confirmed that finding.

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University compared data from patients who tested positive between September and December and those who were infected with the Omicron variant in December.

The study concluded that COVID-19 infections from the Omicron variant are associated with significantly less severe outcomes when compared to infections from the Delta variant. The researchers found that the Omicron variant usually infects the upper respiratory system and not the lungs.

COVID-19 can cause hair loss

It’s well known that one of the symptoms of COVID-19 can be the loss of taste and smell. What’s less well-known is that the virus can cause hair loss.

“The hair loss that occurs after COVID-19 infection occurs because of overactive inflammation in the body," said dermatologist Dr. Alexis Young, M.D. “The inflammation can cause a shift in the hair cycle.”

Doctors say hair loss typically occurs in patients with “long COVID.” They say it usually begins anywhere from several weeks to three months after infection. It’s not a permanent condition but can last as long as nine months.

Around the nation

  • New York: State health officials are hopeful that they have seen the worst of the latest COVID-19 surge. They report that the number of patients requiring hospital treatment has dropped for the first time in three weeks, after straining health care resources.

  • Colorado: The Colorado Department of public health has updated its COVID-19 isolation guidance for public schools. Students and teachers with only mild symptoms can stop isolating after five days if symptoms improve and they do not have a fever for at least 24 hours. 

  • Illinois: State officials are doing away with appointments and red tape in order to get more residents vaccinated. A health clinic in Edwardsville Sunday began administering COVID-19 vaccinations on a walk-in basis to counter the sudden rise in new cases of the virus.

  • Arizona: St. Joseph Hospital in Phoenix has changed its COVID-19 isolation policy to cope with what it says is a “critical staff shortage.” Staff who test positive won’t have to isolate if they are improving, mildly symptomatic, or asymptomatic. They will be required to wear N95 masks for up to 10 days of positive symptoms or testing. 

  • Louisiana: The Louisiana Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Ochsner Health, the state's largest hospital operator, declaring it can mandate coronavirus vaccines for employees. The mandate had been challenged by hospital employees.

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