Surge in the Omicron BA.2 COVID-19 Variant Affects Healthcare Facilities

how america has been affected by covid
Written by
Miranda Kay, RN
March 2, 2022

Omicron BA.2 – aka Omicron BA.1’s terrible little brother – is estimated to be 50-60% more contagious than the Omicron the US faced over the winter, which caused the US to break a world record with 1.35 million cases in one day back on January 10 of this year. Now that once again mask mandates have been removed all over the country, have we headed once again in the same direction? Will there be 50-60% more COVID-19 cases than there were in January? Will healthcare facilities be able to treat the surge in patients?

Current COVID-19 Situation

During the second half of January 2022, the number of COVID-19 cases in the US began to decrease, and the number of cases has followed this downward trend ever since. By March 1, the number of new cases per day was 47,435, and although this number fluctuated throughout March, numbers have remained relatively low. It is tempting to believe that the COVID-19 situation will stay this way, but surges in China and Europe suggest otherwise. Currently, BA.2 cases only constitute 25-30% of new cases in the US. However, considering this variant’s unprecedented transmission rate, it will soon constitute a majority of the new COVID-19 cases in the country and will no doubt once again cause a surge in cases. Furthermore, an increase in cases in Europe has historically been followed by an increase in cases in the US two to four weeks later, which is why a surge in cases across the Atlantic should be a warning for the US.

In the UK, on March 22, 2022, the previous seven days had seen an increase of 20.4% in COVID-19 cases – constituting 592,459 new cases during that week. Furthermore, data from March 18, 2022, indicated an increase of 21.7% in hospitalizations over the previous week – constituting 13,379 new COVID-19 patients filling hospital beds. 

COVID-19 and the Russian Invasion of Ukraine

There is reason to believe that – as a result of the Russian invasion – Ukraine will experience a significant increase in COVID-19 cases, as did Armenia and Azerbaijan during the first year of the pandemic after war broke out between those two countries. Only 35% of Ukrainians have the second COVID-19 shot, and refugees are currently crowding trains and bomb shelters – perfect places for the virus to spread. Furthermore, the country is currently experiencing severe shortages of oxygen and medical supplies in addition to suffering from the destruction of hospitals.

About the COVID-19 situation in Ukraine, UCSF epidemiologists Dr. George Rutherford stated, “I think that’s potentially a place where we could be introducing new variants if they emerge… I think it will impact the whole world, frankly... who knows if it will actually happen, but I’m just saying the potential is there for millions of additional cases.”

Executive director for the WHO’s health emergencies program Michael Ryan also commented on the public health situation facing Ukraine at this moment, “Anytime you disrupt a society like this and put literally millions of people on the move, infectious diseases will exploit that.”

What Should Healthcare Facilities Expect?

Thankfully, Omicron BA.2 – although much more contagious – does not appear to be more severe than Omicron BA.1. However, the percentage of people in the US who have received a third COVID-19 vaccine is relatively low – approximately one-third of the population – compared with the percentage of people in many European countries who have gotten a third shot – approximately 60%. This means that two-thirds of people in the US are only 75-80% protected from the virus as opposed to the same percentage of people in Europe who are 90-95% protected from the virus. Therefore, healthcare facilities in the US should expect to be hit harder by BA.2 than healthcare facilities in European countries such as the UK.

Will It Be Necessary to Hire More Staff?   

Increasing permanent healthcare staffing probably won’t be necessary – unless your facility was already experiencing a staffing shortage; however, all healthcare facilities must have an efficient and reliable way to increase the number of staff when the situation requires it, and an excellent way to do this is with PRN jobs or shifts. 

What Does PRN Mean in Healthcare?

PRN stands for the Latin term “pro re nata,” meaning “as the situation demands” or “as needed.” Therefore, in healthcare, PRN nurses are fully licensed professionals who work on demand. These on-demand nurses might work a single shift or might cover many shifts, replacing other nurses who are on vacation or taking a medical leave of absence or helping to satisfy the demand for more staff that is caused, for example, during a surge in COVID-19 cases.

How Can Health Facilities Hire PRN Staff?

Hiring PRN staff to cover your healthcare facility’s needs is just a click away. With the Nursa™ healthcare staffing app, you can post shifts for free – you only need to pay for completed shifts; you can fill shifts in under 15 minutes; you can hire verified local clinicians; and finally, you can enjoy staffing flexibility by covering your healthcare facility’s needs without hiring more staff than you normally require. No subscriptions or long-term contracts are required; all you need to do is complete your facility’s profile, and you can begin posting shifts – in as little as 15 minutes or less! Even if your current staffing needs are met, go ahead and create your healthcare facility’s profile today and be ready to hire nurses on-demand when COVID-19 surges or other healthcare emergencies arise.

Blog published on:
March 2, 2022

Miranda is a Registered Nurse, Medical Fact Checker, and Publishing Editor at Nursa. Her work has been featured in publications including the American Nurses Association (ANA), Healthcare IT Outcomes, International Living, and more.

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