The National Guard has been asked to help staff hospitals in at least four states as another virus surge is overstretching healthcare systems.
On Thursday, the largest hospital network in Indiana announced that it had asked the Guard for assistance, according to local media. Six teams, with both clinical and non-clinical staff will deploy to hospitals across the state, an official said. The number of Covid-19 patients in Indiana has almost doubled in the past month.
New Hampshire and Maine took similar measures on Wednesday.
In New Hampshire, 70 National Guard members will be deployed the next few weeks to help hospitals with nonmedical functions like food service and clerical work. On top of that, Gov. Chris Sununu said at a news conference, the Federal Emergency Management Agency was dispatching a team of 24 people to assist the hardest-hit facilities.
More than 55,000 coronavirus patients are hospitalized nationwide, far fewer than in September, but an increase of more than 20 percent over the past two weeks, according to a New York Times database.
The United States is averaging over 121,300 cases a day, an increase of about 27 percent from two weeks ago. Reported deaths are up 12 percent, to an average of about 1,275 per day.
“I do not take this action lightly,” Ms. Mills said in a statement. “But we must take steps to alleviate the strain on our health care system and ensure care for all those who need it.”
Last week, New York State also turned to National Guard troops to help reinforce overburdened nursing homes around the state. Gov. Kathy Hochul issued “a pre-emptive strike,” ordering that roughly 30 hospitals nearing their capacity stop performing elective surgeries.
Hospitalizations in the state remained much lower than the highs of last winter or spring. The new restrictions, which are intended to avoid the chaos that New York saw in the spring of 2020, will mostly impact hospitals upstate.
“We continue to see an uptick in hospitalizations,” Ms. Hochul said at a news conference on Thursday. “This is what keeps me up at night.”
Gov. Charlie Baker signaled that Massachusetts could take similar measures on Thursday.
“If there’s a way that we can bring the Guard in and involve the Guard as an ancillary and supportive group to support what’s going on in the health care system, we’ll certainly pursue that and try and put it in place,” Mr. Baker told reporters.
Kentucky has yet to enlist the National Guard, but long-term staff shortages plague health care facilities.
On Thursday, Gov. Andy Beshear declared that the state’s chronic nursing shortage was “an emergency.” Mr. Beshear said he would sign an executive order on Thursday aimed at boosting enrollment in training programs for nurses.
“We are operating 12 to 20 percent short of needed nursing volume,” Mr. Beshear said at a news conference.
Mr. Beshear said his order also has “immediate actions” help Kentucky cope with a surge in cases.
Even states that rank among the highest in vaccination rates are struggling, like Maine, where about 73 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, behind only Vermont and Rhode Island, according to a New York Times database. Cases in Maine recently reached their pandemic peak.
Maine Medical Center, the state’s largest hospital, said in a statement on Wednesday that there had been times this week “when there were no critical care beds available,” forcing hospital leaders to postpone surgeries.
“We are caring for an unprecedented number of patients,” the hospital said.
Officials are bracing for the Omicron variant, but the Delta variant remains the more imminent threat. Health care workers staff shortages brought on by burnout, illnesses and resistance to vaccine mandates have made the situation even more dire.
In Missouri, where 52 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, hospitalizations are up 43 percent in the past two weeks, data shows. More than 1,680 people were hospitalized with Covid as of Wednesday, compared with about 980 on Nov. 8.
Dr. Raghu Adiga, the chief medical officer at Liberty Hospital in Liberty, Mo., said on Wednesday that his staff was frustrated with those who were unvaccinated because they were driving this latest surge.
“They’re going to have to help us help them,” Dr. Adiga said.
Grace Ashford contributed reporting.