“It really is, right now, a viral blizzard because there’s a lot of infections,” said Dr. Samer Antonios, chief clinical officer at Ascension Via Christi Health in Kansas, where Gov. Laura Kelly signed a state of disaster emergency this week due to Covid-19 challenges.
Because of staffing shortages in some health care systems around the country, through illnesses or people quitting because of exhaustion, the nation “cannot provide that same quality of care to 130,000 patients now like we did last year,” Dr. Taison Bell, director of the medical intensive care unit at the University of Virginia Health, told CNN on Saturday.
In New York, 40 hospitals — mainly in the Mohawk Valley, Finger Lakes and central regions — have been told to stop nonessential elective operations for at least two weeks because of low patient bed capacity, the state health department said Saturday.
Vaccine requirements changing
The US Food and Drug Administration on Friday amended the emergency use authorization for Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine, shortening the period of time between initial vaccination and the booster shot from at least six months to five months for those over the age of 18.
“Vaccination is our best defense against Covid-19, including the circulating variants, and shortening the length of time between completion of a primary series and a booster dose may help reduce waning immunity,” said Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.
The FDA has already shortened the time needed before receiving a booster shot of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine from six to five months. The Pfizer booster is authorized for everyone age 12 and older.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Friday that she is mandating all healthcare workers to get a Covid-19 booster shot within two weeks of eligibility.
“Healthcare workers will be asked to do this with no exemptions other than a medical exemption and no test out options,” Hochul said. All healthcare workers were previously required to be fully vaccinated in September.
Neighboring Connecticut issued a similar order Thursday, as long-term care staff and hospital employees are mandated to receive booster doses in the upcoming weeks.
Debate over Covid-19 safety measures in schools
Nearly 13% of New York City students tested positive for Covid-19 over a 24-hour period, according to sample testing from the city’s department of education Thursday. No schools are closed at this time due to Covid-19 cases, according to additional DOE data, but six school classrooms remain closed.
The Chicago Teachers Union had voted to teach remotely due to the Covid-19 surge, but the school district canceled classes, saying it wanted in-person learning.
The Georgia Department of Public Health posted an updated administrative order Wednesday allowing teachers and school staff — regardless of vaccination status — to return to work after a Covid-19 exposure or a positive Covid-19 test if they remain asymptomatic and wear a mask while at work.
“Students, parents, and educators have made it clear to us that they want to be in the classroom, and we are looking into many methods to continue safe, in-person learning — including updated quarantine and isolation protocols, reduced contact tracing requirements, and augmented testing opportunities,” the letter from Kemp and Toomey said.
Local school districts may still develop and follow their own quarantine and isolation requirements, according to the order.
CNN’s Naomi Thomas, Deidre McPhillips, Kaitlan Collins, Chris Boyette, Michelle Watson, Carma Hassan, Laura Dolan, Steve Almasy, Melissa Alonso, Raja Razek and Rob Frehse contributed to this report.