US coronavirus: Covid-19 hospitalizations reach record high, HHS data shows

Covid-19 hospitalizations in the United States have reached a new record high, surpassing the previous peak from January 2021, according to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services.

There are 145,982 people currently hospitalized with Covid-19 — about twice as many than two weeks ago. There are nearly 24,000 ICU beds in use for Covid-19 patients.

Hospitalizations reached a previous peak about a year ago, with more than 142,000 people hospitalized with Covid-19 on January 14, 2021. During the Delta surge over the summer, Covid-19 hospitalizations peaked at about 104,000 on September 1, 2021.

[Original story, published at 6 a.m. ET]

The spread of the Omicron variant is causing widespread disruption across the US as hospitalizations reach a level not seen since the 2020-21 holiday surge.
More than 141,000 Americans were hospitalized with Covid-19 as of Monday, according to data the Department of Health and Human Services, nearing the record of 142,246 hospitalizations on January 14, 2021.
The burden is straining health care networks as hospitals juggling staffing issues caused by the increased demand coupled with employees, who are at a higher risk of infection, having to isolate and recover after testing positive.
Omicron devastates services, schools, travel as workers are sick or in quarantine

In Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam declared a limited state of emergency Monday as the number of ICU hospitalizations more than doubled since December 1. The order allows hospitals to expand bed capacity and gives more flexibility in staffing, he said, adding that it also expands the use of telehealth as well as expands which medical professionals can give vaccines.

In Texas, at least 2,700 medical staffers are being hired, trained and deployed to assist with the surge, joining more than 1,300 personnel already sent across the state, the Texas Department of State Health Services said in a statement to CNN.

Kentucky has mobilized the National Guard to provide support, with 445 members sent to 30 health care facilities, the state announced.

“Omicron continues to burn through the commonwealth, growing at levels we have never seen before. Omicron is significantly more contagious than even the Delta variant,” said Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, noting the earlier variant that spurred a surge of cases in the summer and fall months.

“If it spreads at the rate we are seeing, it is certainly going to fill up our hospitals,” he said, and Kentucky is “down to 134 adult ICU beds available.”

How 10 parents of school-age kids are coping with Omicron, in their own words

In Kansas, the University of Kansas Health System, which announced a record number of Covid-19 patients, is “shifting staff from areas that can support the supportive functions of direct patient care,” UKHS chief operating officer Chris Ruder said. “So that may be running a lab, it may be a simple patient transport. Those types of things we can use other individuals to help with.”

Mitigation measures such as mandatory masking are also being revived in some areas.

Delaware Gov. John Carney signed a universal indoor mask mandate Monday due to the increase in hospitalizations, with some hospitals “over 100% inpatient bed capacity amid crippling staffing shortages,” he said in a statement. Churches and places of worship are exempt from the mandate, while businesses should provide masks to customers and have signage about indoor mask requirements.

“I know we’re all exhausted by this pandemic. But at the level of hospitalizations we’re seeing, Delawareans who need emergency care might not be able to get it. That’s just a fact. It’s time for everyone to pitch in and do what works. Wear your mask indoors. Avoid gatherings or expect to get and spread Covid. Get your vaccine and, if eligible, get boosted. That’s how we’ll get through this surge without endangering more lives,” Carney said.

A technician administers a Covid-19 test Monday at a drive-thru location at Churchill Downs, Kentucky.

Schools face Omicron issues

The debate over safety in schools from Covid-19 continues to play out as only about one in six children ages 5 to 11 is fully vaccinated, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As Los Angeles prepared to return to school on Tuesday, approximately 62,000 students and staff had tested positive for Covid-19 and will have to stay home, data from the Los Angeles Unified School District showed Monday, equating to a 14.99% positivity rate. The positivity rate of Los Angeles County at large, by comparison, has spiked to 22%.

From Europe to the US, Covid cases in children are surging. Schools aren't prepared
In Chicago, educators will return to school Tuesday and students are slated for in-person learning Wednesday following a nearly week-long dispute. The Chicago Teachers Union had voted to teach remotely last week, and the school district responded by canceling classes for four days.
The agreement, announced late Monday, included metrics for when a classroom would need to go remote due to Covid-19 levels.
In areas where schools have returned to in-person learning after the holiday break, the time needed for those with Covid-19 to recover has impacted some essential services.

In Greensboro, North Carolina, the school district suspended school bus transportation…

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