Omicron Variant of Fear in Michigan Spiral of Overcrowded Nurses

In the last month, medical staff on Michigan has sagged toward another holiday season defined by rising COVID-19 cases, an almost surreal sign reminiscent of the pre-vaccine era, in which the state emerged as a hotspot for coronavirus. initial pandemic.

Cases have spiked and hospitals across the state have been pushed to the brink. The looming mass gatherings, loose mask authorization practice, and stagnation of vaccination rates There were doctors and nurses fearing more chaos.

Then the threat of Super mutant Omicron variant, this — although it could be soon — worries experts might even more contagious and may even be resistant to vaccines than Stressed Delta sent the state’s hospital system in the fall of this year.

“I don’t know how much more our hospitals could lose,” a Grand Rapids nurse, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of occupational punishment, told The Daily Beast on Monday. “We all worked overtime. The idea of ​​more patients, fewer resources, and variations that could cause more problems? It was a nightmare.”

The Omicron variant, officially known as B.1.1.529, was classified as a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization on Friday. The variant, first identified in southern Africa, has been greeted with travel restrictions globally, including the US imposing a new ban on most visitors from South Africa and South Africa. seven other African countries. This even as scientists warn, we know very little about any unique dangers it can pose other than that it has dozens of mutations, including more than 30 on the protein.” mutation” helps the virus enter the body.

As of Monday afternoon, perhaps thanks to the notoriously lacking disease surveillance system in the United States, no cases of the new variant have been identified in Michigan or any other state. But with cases being identified by authorities around the world, including near Michigan hotspots like Ontario, Canada, frontline workers are preparing for the worst.

Anthony Huynh, a nurse at Lansing, told The Daily Beast: “The idea of ​​a new variant is just something we haven’t fully memorized yet.

Even before Omicron appeared, fears of a potential tsunami had led the federal government to approve Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s request for staffing assistance, sending more than 50 medical professionals to help two hospitals in state in the next 30 days.

That’s because unlike some states that have seen a spike in cases — and a planet willing to panic at the prospect of a terrifying new variant — Michigan has been in the red.

The daily average of new cases has spiked more than 50 percent over the past two weeks, based on New York Times. Michigan Department of Health on Monday says more than 84% of intensive care hospital beds are full, along with more than 80% of the hospital’s total inpatient beds. With admissions rising steadily over the past 19 weeks, nine hospitals in Michigan are now fully booked — and another 22 are at 90% capacity.

“Hospitals are operating at full capacity across the state, particularly in Metro Detroit and Western Michigan, and this is taking a huge toll on our health care workers,” said Elizabeth Hertel, Director Director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, said in a statement.

As always, state data shows that the majority of these hospitalizations were among residents who had not received a coronavirus vaccine or had a booster shot afterward. In the last month, 72% of cases and more than 70% of hospitalizations were among unvaccinated people. Nearly 75 percent of deaths in Michigan also involve people who weren’t stabbed.

Experts generally expect vaccines to provide at least some protection against any mutations in the coronavirus, including Omicron. And officials from President Biden Anthony Fauci and below is calling on Americans to adopt measures that we know have worked in the past: vaccinations (and boosters), and wearing masks.

But in Michigan, relatively weak vaccination rates make the emergence of a new variant all the more worrisome.

Dr Preeti Malani, medical director and professor of infectious diseases at the University of Michigan, told The Daily Beast on Monday: “There’s a feeling that it’s more contagious, but we don’t know yet. “But what we do know is that this could go in a very bad direction.”

For Huynh, a nurse at Sparrow Hospital, the workload was overwhelming – and the idea of ​​a new variant being created was a utopia.

The 28-year-old had only started working as a nurse in the oncology unit a few months when the pandemic began, and has been on the front lines of the deadly pandemic for more than two years.

During the pandemic, Huynh and his colleagues have had to spend weeks working, volunteering to work overtime to support each other, and dealing with the reality that fewer staff means more time. than in the hospital around COVID.

“I think the scary thing is that during the holidays, people want to be with their families and forget a pandemic is happening. But without the high number of vaccinations, that attitude means hospitals will have to see large numbers of cases and staff will have to work harder than ever to keep up with demand.” Mr. Huynh said. “And we don’t even know what variation will bring.”

Jamie Brown, president of the Michigan Nurses Association and also a nurse, reiterated staff frustration and general burnout, adding that the threat of the new variant has made staff sick. The hospital felt “dismayed”.

Brown said the union, which now represents thousands of nurses across the state, heard from a range of members about the dire condition at Sparrow hospital in particular, where Workers recently voted to allow a potential strike. A hospital spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Brown added: “We welcome any and all appropriate government assistance provided it does not work to curtail a strike seeking immediate and lasting improvements to personnel and safety.

Likewise, for Grand Rapids nurses, working conditions are “almost as bad as they are.” [were] last year, and I doubt they will get any better soon. “

“Last year, we were able to justify the workload with the knowledge that mass vaccination against COVID would relieve the pressure,” she added. “It’s been almost a year with vaccines, and the pressure is greater than ever.” Omicron Variant of Fear in Michigan Spiral of Overcrowded Nurses


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