Still, only 62 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated, and the nation’s medical infrastructure is dangerously frayed two years into the pandemic as hospitals contend with staff shortages fueled by burnout and early retirements.
Public health experts warned that severe disruptions could still be coming.
Past coronavirus surges have been regionalized, allowing states to reallocate resource like monoclonal antibodies. However, this wave threatens the country at once, according to Michael Osterholm (a professor and director of The Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy) at the University of Minnesota.
“With this one, all 50 states are in the soup at the same time. It’s like every state is being hit by a viral hurricane,” he said.
Dr. Osterholm predicts an increase in infected health care workers over the next three- to five weeks. This will cause a strain on an already stressed system. “We’re already stretched so thin,” he said.
Scientists said those staffing shortages — in hospitals and nursing homes, but also in restaurants, retail stores and airline workforces — had increased the urgency of re-evaluating isolation periods. People were able to obtain a rough, but imperfect, measure of contagiousness through at-home rapid testing.
Scientists said that loosening isolation recommendations was made more difficult by the lack of these tests during the holiday period. Multiple experts, including Dr. Jha, suggested that two consecutive negative rapid tests would provide more assurance that someone is not contagious.
Scientists believe that it was difficult to change isolation policies because of the lack of widespread access.
Source: NY Times