Hospitals and nursing homes around the U.S. are bracing for worsening staff shortages as state deadlines arrive for health care workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
With ultimatums taking effect this week in states like New York, California, Rhode Island and Connecticut, the fear is that some employees will quit or let themselves be fired or suspended rather than get the vaccine.
“How this is going to play out, we don’t know. We are concerned about how it will exacerbate an already quite serious staffing problem,” said California Hospital Association spokesperson Jan Emerson-Shea, adding that the organization “absolutely” supports the state’s vaccination requirement.
New York health care employees had until the end of the day Monday to get at least one dose, but some hospitals had already begun suspending or taking action against holdouts.
In New York, hospitals reported 84% of their roughly 450,000 workers were vaccinated as of Wednesday, up from 81% on Sept. 15. That left the future employment of about 72,000 hospital workers unclear. The percentage of nursing home staff receiving at least one dose of COVID-19 increased to 89% as of Sunday, up from 83% on Wednesday — meaning about 16,000 of the 145,000 total nursing home workers statewide had yet to comply.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has vowed to call up National Guard medical staff to fill staffing gaps in hospitals and nursing homes as part of an emergency plan revealed Saturday.
Other options include deploying vaccinated workers from other states or tapping recent graduates or retirees — similar to steps New York took at the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020 when hospitals were overwhelmed with COVID cases. Hochul's plan is also pursuing potentially bringing vaccinated workers from other countries, such as Ireland and the Philippines.
Also in the news:
►Japan is set to lift all coronavirus emergency measures when they expire later this week as the infections slow and the nation tries to reactivate its economy.
►The rising number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 has placed a new burden on Northeast Ohio hospitals. Leaders from a number of hospitals in the area said they were facing a shortage of beds and lengthy wait times for emergency care.
►Rapid COVID-19 tests are in short supply across California, forcing some testing facilities to turn away those seeking a quick test, even workers who need the tests as part of regular screening mandates.
►Health officials in Umatilla County, Oregon, say they are starting to see COVID-19 cases linked to the Pendleton Round-Up, a large annual rodeo that ended Sept. 25.
►A statewide eviction moratorium ends in California Friday, but officials are rushing to make sure tenants with unpaid rent due to the pandemic know they can still stay in their homes after that date if they've already applied for assistance from the state.
📈Today's numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 43 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 690,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 232 million cases and 4.7 million deaths. More than 183 million Americans — 55% of the population — have been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
📘 What we're reading: Dozens of school bus drivers have died of COVID-19, which has led to both shortages in drivers and widespread worries. Read more here.
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A federal judge on Monday ordered that all employees entering California prisons be vaccinated or have a religious or medical exemption, as he tries to head off a coronavirus outbreak like the one that killed 28 inmates and a correctional officer at San Quentin State Prison last year.
More than 50,000 California inmates have been infected and at least 240 have died since the start of the pandemic.
“All agree that a mandatory staff vaccination policy would lower the risk of preventable death and serious medical consequences among incarcerated persons,” wrote U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar. “And no one has identified any remedy that will produce anything close to the same benefit.”
Tigar has broad authority to direct medical care within California prisons under a long-running lawsuit over poor health care.
“Once the virus enters a facility, it is very difficult to contain, and the dominant route by which it enters a prison is through infected staff,” the judge reasoned.
As of Monday, there were 218 active inmate infections, 129 of them at North Kern State Prison near Bakersfield, California. Wasco State Prison in the same county had 32 infected inmates, but only one other prison has double-digit infections.
Statewide, there were 357 active employee infections; 39 employees have died, including three this month.
Inmates who want in-person visits or who work outside prisons, including inmate firefighters, must also be fully vaccinated or have a religious or medical exemption. The California Correctional Peace Officers Association has said the mandate could create staff shortages if employees refuse to comply.
This isn’t exactly how Ime Udoka drew things up to kick off his tenure as the new head coach of the Boston Celtics.
While the team’s players were on hand for an in-person Media Day Monday, Udoka had to partake in the event virtually after contracting a breakthrough case of COVID-19.
Udoka, who is vaccinated, said he was mostly asymptomatic aside from a slight headache at the outset of having the virus. Udoka was in his 10th day of isolation and he hopes to be with the Celtics Tuesday when they begin training camp practices.
“In general, it’s been a little bit of a whirlwind summer being gone a lot,” said Udoka, who was an assistant on the U.S. men’s basketball team for the Olympics. “Obviously to the Olympics for a while and then this happening within the last 10 or so days. Really relied on the staff and our previous relationship to hit the ground running.”
– Greg Dudek, The Brockton Enterprise
Contributing: David Robinson. Gannett's New York State Team; Associated Press