To assist hospitals overburdened by COVID-19, the federal government is sending medical teams to six states: New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Rhode Island, Michigan, and New Mexico.
According to a White House official, President Joe Biden is expected to announce the deployments Thursday while discussing steps the administration is taking to address an increase in infections caused by the omicron variant.
His remarks come at a time when COVID-19 hospitalizations are at an all-time high. As states deploy National Guard members to health care facilities, some hospitals are delaying elective surgeries.
Faced with pressure from even members of his own party to do more to combat the pandemic, Biden’s new actions are expected to focus on increased manpower.
Hospitals are in desperate need of supplies. And expanding. More than a third of hospitals in Vermont, Wyoming, Arizona, California, and West Virginia have critical staff shortages. According to data released Wednesday, it’s at least half in New Mexico and Rhode Island.
Thursday will be the second time Biden has updated his winter pandemic strategy since announcing it in early December, just as omicron was spreading.
Biden announced additional steps just before Christmas, including the mobilization of 1,000 more military doctors, nurses, paramedics, and other medical personnel to deploy to hospitals in January and February.
The surge teams announced by Biden on Thursday are the first wave of those deployments. Some hospitals receive seven to ten health care workers. Others receive between 20 and 25 dollars.
The teams, as well as those that will be deployed in the coming weeks, are expected to assist emergency departments that have been overwhelmed by COVID -19 and to free up health care workers to continue providing other lifesaving care.
Biden, along with the heads of the Defense Department and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, will speak Thursday with federal surge teams that are already assisting hospitals in Arizona, New York, and Michigan about the impact they’ve had and the lessons they’ve learned.
More than 3,000 personnel have been deployed on a rotating basis to 39 states and four U.S. territories since surge response teams were established in July to respond to the delta variant.
According to Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, the additional 1,000 troops Biden is now dispatching are only a drop in the bucket of what is required.
Osterholm, who advised Biden during the transition, estimates that COVID-19 will infect more than 10% of the country’s 9.8 million doctors, nurses, and specialized medical technicians.
On Wednesday, the heads of more than 100 overburdened North Carolina hospitals pleaded with the public to help slow the spread of COVID-19 by getting vaccinated, wearing a mask, and taking other precautions.
With hospitalizations breaking records, health care workers are struggling to care for those with other urgent medical needs that are not related to COVID, hospital officials wrote in a public letter to “patients, families, and communities we are proud to serve.”
Last week, Dr. Abraar Karan, an infectious disease fellow at Stanford University, took to Twitter to share statistics showing that the number of health care workers testing positive at the hospital there had tripled in a week.
He claims that a hospital’s ability to survive can change in a single day.
The federal medical personnel that the administration is dispatching cannot be everywhere at once, according to Karan, and they also require time to orient when they arrive. “They must learn how to work within the hospital infrastructure,” he explained. “It isn’t ideal.”
When asked if the administration is doing enough, Biden said he’s been able to “generate significant federal help, in terms of folks both coming into the hospitals and administering all the help that these states require.”
“I believe we’re on the right track,” he said.
However, according to FiveThirtyEight polling averages, for the first time, more Americans disapprove of Biden’s handling of COVID-19 than approve.
More than four dozen Democratic members of Congress signed a letter to Biden this week urging him to take additional steps to improve COVID-19 testing.