SOURCE: AP — The current explosion of omicron-fueled coronavirus infections in the US is causing a breakdown in basic functions and services — the latest illustration of how COVID-19 keeps upending life more than two years into the pandemic.
“This really does, I think, remind everyone of when COVID-19 first appeared and there were such major disruptions across every part of our normal life,” said Tom Cotter, director of emergency response and preparedness at the global health nonprofit Project HOPE. “And the unfortunate reality is, there’s no way of predicting what will happen next until we get our vaccination numbers — globally — up.”
First responders, hospitals, schools and government agencies have employed an all-hands-on-deck approach to keep the public safe, but they are worried how much longer they can keep it up.
In Kansas’ Johnson County, paramedics are working 80 hours a week. Ambulances have frequently been forced to alter their course when the hospitals they’re heading to tell them they’re too overwhelmed to help. When the ambulances arrive at hospitals, some of their emergency patients end up in waiting rooms because there are no beds.
The number of COVID-19 patients at the University of Kansas Hospital rose from 40 on December 1 to 139 on Friday. At the same time, more than 900 employees have been sickened with COVID-19 or are awaiting test results — 7 percent of the hospital’s 13,500-person workforce.
“What my hope is and what we’re going to cross our fingers around is that as it peaks … maybe it’ll have the same rapid fall we saw in South Africa,” said Dr. Steve Stites, chief medical officer for the University of Kansas Hospital.
The omicron variant spreads even more easily than other coronavirus strains, and has already become dominant in many countries. It also more readily infects those who have been vaccinated or had previously been infected by prior versions of the virus. However, early studies show omicron is less likely to cause severe illness than the previous delta variant, and vaccination and a booster still offer strong protection from serious illness, hospitalisation and death.