As the U.S. continues its efforts to fight off the novel coronavirus, the inevitable winter wave has brought devastating consequences. With school breaks, many families and people have taken the past few weeks off as a break, though the virus has been working harder than ever, leading to surges of case numbers around the country.
Specifically, California, one of the most populous states, reported nearly 50,000 new cases just in the past few days. With over 125,000 people hospitalized nationwide, hospitals are all facing a common issue: overflowing hospitals with overworked staff members. Due to traveling and absence of isolation, case numbers inevitably surged during the winter holiday season following the dire Thanksgiving peak. According to CNN and data from Johns Hopkins University, there have been approximately 20.5 million infection cases with over 350,000 deaths as of January 3rd.
The chief medical officer at the Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Medical Center, Dr. Brad Spellberg, warned that “this is about total collapse of the health care system if we have another spike.”
The health care system, solely relying on the brave souls of first responders in hospitals, faces heavy risks as even the staff employees are catching the virus despite extreme preventive measures. For example, a Christmas costume mishap led to the infection of nearly 48 employees at one Californian hospital. At the San Jose Medical center, 44 staff members became infected in the span of the last four days. With no time to spare, employee cases could be a result of innocent equipment mishap or the continuous contact with sick patients.
As no one is spared by this virus, health officials are ruhsing to distribute the new vaccine supplies to all hopsitals. However, the vaccine distribution process itself is being slowed down by the virus as well. Though the U.S. health officials promised 20 million peopel would be vaccinated by the end of the year 2020, the current situation is underwhelming compared to the orginal goal. As of Sunday, 13 million vaccines have been distributed and of those, around 4.2 million have been administered.
Dr. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a major leading role in the pandemic, said “if you look at the last 72 hours, there’s been about 1.4 million administered into people’s arms, which is an average of about 500,00 a day” but “we’ve got to do much better.”
Dr. Leana Wen who used to be the Baltimore Health Commissioner reflected a majority of healthcare workers when she responded to the lack of federal assistance. “The problem is local and state health departments have been doing everything else in this response. They’ve been the ones figuring out how to ramp up testing and contact tracing and doing public education, and now we want them to also take on the duties of launching this massive vaccination campaign. They really need the assistance of the federal government.”
As a plea for help, the countless burned-out health cares wish to express the importance of staying isolated and the severity of this virus. Dr. Spellberg says “And we, in the hospital, cannot stop that. We can only react to it. It is the public that has the power to put a stop to the spread of this virus by obeying the public health guidance that have been put out.”