Yet only 62% of Americans are fully immunized, and the country’s medical infrastructure is dangerously frayed two years after the start of the pandemic as hospitals face staff shortages fueled by burnout and early retirements. .
Public health experts have warned that the most serious disruptions may yet be to come.
Past outbreaks of the coronavirus have been regional, allowing states to reallocate resources like monoclonal antibodies, as this wave threatens to overtake the country at once, said Michael Osterholm, professor and director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.
“With this one, all 50 states are in the soup at the same time. It’s like every state is hit by a viral hurricane, ”he said.
Dr Osterholm predicts that over the next three to five weeks a substantial portion of healthcare workers will be infected and unable to work, straining an overloaded system. “We’re already stretched so thin,” he said.
Scientists said these staff shortages – in hospitals and nursing homes, but also in restaurants, retail stores and airline workforces – had heightened the urgency to reassess periods of isolation. And rapid home testing had given people the ability to get a rough, though imperfect, measure of their contagiousness.
But the scarcity of such tests during the holiday season made the isolation recommendations much more onerous, the scientists said. Several experts, including Dr Jha, said two negative rapid tests on consecutive days would be more reassuring that someone was not contagious.
According to some scientists, the widespread lack of access to testing has made it more difficult to change isolation policies.