COVID Updates for Travel Nurses: April 14, 2021
Currently, Michigan is leading the country in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations and it’s clear the pandemic is far from over. Other parts of the country are showing signs of stabilization — even improvement. In other words, the state of the pandemic is subject to your location.
Here are the latest COVID-19 updates for travel nurses.
What’s Happening with COVID-19 Right Now
The most recent data available from the CDC shows a current COVID-19 case count of 31,015,033 and 559,172 deaths. The New York Times COVID case map shows a stabilization of infections in the Northeast with clusters of outbreaks in the Midwest and some fluctuations in the West. While overall, cases and hospitalizations are on the rise across the country, some states — like Michigan — are certainly rising at much faster. National Geographic reports that 24 states, including Colorado, Georgia, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Florida, are now seeing an increase in COVID-19.
Essentially, the CDC is chalking up the rise in cases to the relaxing of state restrictions, along with the sharp increase of variants that are now dominant. The reason that variants make such a difference is that because they have mutated in a way that allows the coronavirus to have more places to adhere to the host cell–some explanations have described this as making it more “sticky” to help illustrate.
Because the virus is “stickier,” it takes less of the virus to infect someone, making it more contagious. With other strains, you may have needed a higher exposure to actually get infected. With the new variants, it could only take a few virus particles to infect you. There are even some suspected reports of a “double mutant” virus that could be especially contagious right now.
What’s Happening in Hospitals Right Now
According to the CDC, as of April 9, the US is seeing the fourth straight week of COVID cases rising in the U.S. In a White House briefing on April 12, officials shared the latest data on the novel coronavirus in the U.S., with both good and bad news. The bad news is that while the 7-day average for new cases has increased about 3% over the past 7-week period–now averaging around 66K new cases per day — deaths have not increased. Deaths have actually decreased by 5.2% to around 684 deaths per day. However, we do know from past data and trends that death rates tend to significantly lag behind new cases and infections by several weeks, so it could be weeks before we see hospitalizations and deaths from cases that are just now occurring. And the other piece of data certainly seems to support that, as hospitalizations have increased by 6.6% over the past 7 days as well. All in all, those hospitalizations could end up as deaths, which would drive the death rate back up.
In hard hit areas, like Michigan, which has the highest number of hospitalized patients with COVID in the entire nation, pandemic fatigue is high. Among healthcare workers, burnout from yet another surge is taking its toll. ERs and hospital beds are filling up. One patient described trying to get treatment for mere stitches as akin to a “war zone.”
Meanwhile, increasing numbers of young people are being infected, which takes a toll on nurses. “These people are sick,” one nurse told a local Michigan news station. “They’re young. They require a lot of care…it’s hard. People are just emotionally exhausted.”
Currently, the demands for COVID travel nursing assignments are nowhere near where they were this time last year, but there are still some assignments hovering around the high $5k/week pay rate. Here are some of the rates currently available on job boards:
- Ohio: Hemodialysis, $5.3K
- North Carolina: Hemodialysis, $5.2K
- Connecticut: General MICU/SICU, $5K
- Maryland: ICU, $5K
- New Mexico: Long-Term Acute Care, $4.8K
- North Dakota: Med/Surg and ER, $4.4-$4.8K
- Michigan: Med/Surg, ICU, Telemetry: $4.4-$4.8K
There are also many vaccine clinic travel nursing positions open, which is a unique opportunity to have somewhat shorter days and a more stable and predictable environment. The pay is not as high, but it could be a good fit for some nurses. As an example of one such job, there are openings in western Michigan for around $1.9K/week for vaccine clinic RNs.
What’s Happening With the Vaccine
The biggest is the U.S. has halted use of the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine pending further safety evaluation after six women developed a rare blood clotting disorder within a two-weeks of receiving it. While some rare side effects are to be expected with a vaccine but this particular blood clotting disorder is cause for concern. The disorder is known as cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, and it’s extremely rare, prompting concern that the immune response triggered by the vaccine somehow caused the body to attack its own platelets. All six women were between the ages of 18 and 48. Sadly, one woman died and one is still hospitalized with complications.
Seven million people have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, so admittedly, six people out of that number is a very, very small amount. However, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is an adenovirus vaccine–the same type of vaccine as the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has also been linked to blood clotting disorders–so officials are taking an abundance of caution to ensure its safety before any continued use.
“We are recommending a pause in the use of this vaccine out of an abundance of caution,” Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, and Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the C.D.C., said in a joint statement released by The New York Times. “Right now, these adverse events appear to be extremely rare.”
According to the CDC’s count, 190 million doses of the vaccine have currently been administered. 22.3% of the country has been fully vaccinated, while 36.4% of the population has received at least one dose. Even one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines may confer as much as 80% protection.
As of April 19, every adult in every state will be eligible to receive the vaccine and the White House will be rolling out mass federal vaccination states next week as well.
In other news:
- Regeneron has released a study saying its antibody-drug cocktail prevents COVID-19 disease. Their study claims an 81% reduction rate in severe symptoms as compared to the placebo.
- As more people are fully vaccinated, the CDC has also released guidelines for fully vaccinated individuals, which include not having to quarantine if you’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19, gather indoors without a mask with other fully vaccinated individuals and without a mask with other unvaccinated people, providing they are not at risk for severe illness with COVID-19.
- The CDC is officially studying breakthrough cases, in which fully vaccinated people have still been infected with COVID-19.