The a rolling 7-day average in the United States is now 1,319 deaths per day. On December 6, there were 113,992 new cases of COVID-19 reported nationwide. Over 60,000 Americans are currently hospitalized with complications from COVID-19.
Only 60% of the country is fully vaccinated with 71% of the population having received at least one dose. This information comes courtesy of the New York Times.
President Joe Biden has announced new actions to protect Americans against the emerging Omicron variant as we head into the winter holiday season. On December 2, the White House Briefing Room issued a statement from the president with a summary plan for combatting the new variant. The plan includes boosters for all adults and child vaccination programs as well as free, at-home testing for some Americans.
In a press conference on Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki dismissed the idea of making rapid antigen tests free for all Americans in an exchange with NPR’s Mara Liasson who asked why the U.S. would not follow the United Kingdom in making home tests free and more widely available. The Intercept covered exactly how expensive and difficult to obtain rapid tests are — which directly impacts test distribution — following the exchange.
The White House has intimated that it would require private health insurance to cover the full cost of at-home COVID-19 tests, which Bloomberg Law notes has alarmed insurers. Kristine Grow, spokeswoman for America’s Health Insurance Plans said that a major point of concern would be inflated prices, or price gouging, on tests. Furthermore, the ERISA Industry Committee, which represents large employers that provide employee benefits, also released a statement via their president and CEP, Annette Guarisco Fildes:
ERIC is concerned about the potential costs this will impose on employers and the possibility of price gouging of COVID-19 testing. We urge the Administration to ensure employers are not subject to unjustified charges relating to any COVID-19 testing.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will not be enforcing its rule requiring healthcare workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The agency made the announcement in a memo and follows temporary injunctions granted in 10 states on Monday of last week and then broadly for all states on Tuesday. According to McKnight’s the second ruling, from the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, stopped implementation in all states due to what the judge called a “need for uniformity.”
According to Modern Healthcare, the block relieves tension for hospitals and systems that did not require worker vaccinations on their own. For example, East Tennessee Children’s Hospital in Knoxville, TN, saw employee vaccination rise 15% after CMS announced the mandate and 20 workers resigned. The hospital is now reaching out to those employees to inform them that they can keep their jobs.
The U.S. Department of Justice announced that a Federal Grand Jury in Columbia returned a multiple-count indictment against Tammy McDonald, 53, of Columbia, SC. McDonals was charged with two counts of producing fraudulent COVID-19 Vaccination Record Cards and one of lying to federal officers about her role in producing the cards. McDonald worked as the Director of Nursing Services at a skilled nursing and rehabilitation center in Columbia, according to the DOJ announcement.
Nursing Staff Shortages
The skilled nursing industry believes that it is time for the states to intervene against staffing agencies accused of price gouging. According to Skilled Nursing News, in the last year alone, CNAs, LPNs and RNs saw an overall wage increase of 80% across the state of Pennsylvania, but those markups also come with agencies offering wage hikes that can be two to four times the market average.
Price gouging usually refers to inflating prices on goods or services and generally not on wages for a highly in-demand profession.
The New England Journal of Medicine looked at the failure of hospitals to balance the load of patient care during the public health emergency and how that impacts disadvantaged populations. While disadvantaged groups experience disproportionately high rates of infection, hospitalization and death, these populations are overrepresented among hospital patients and the impact of intensive care unit or other hospital bed shortages fall on them.