COVID Updates for Travel Nurses: Feb 3, 2021
For the first time in a long time, we have a glimmer of hopeful news to report on the COVID-19 front: cases from the novel coronavirus are on the decline. Cases and new infections have taken a pretty steep decrease and while deaths are not drastically dropping just yet, it’s still a refreshing change from the constant doom and gloom updates we’ve had to present in the past.
However, new variants of the COVID-19 virus continue to pop up and vaccination efforts still lag behind ideal numbers, so it’s hard to say with certainty if a clear end to this fight is yet in sight. Here are some of the vital updates on COVID-19 for travel nurses and what areas are hiring high-paying positions right now.
What’s Happening with COVID-19 Right Now
In the U.S., new cases seem to be dropping, which is hopeful news and a necessary one to slow a wave of new infection. As of February 2nd, the CDC reports just over 26 million cases and close to 442,000 deaths. If you look at the case map through the CDC, the visuals are almost shocking––some states that have been hard-hit in the past, like Michigan, Washington, and the Dakotas, all now sit at a peaceful green, representing a low case count of only 1-11 per 100K in the past week.
NPR’s state tracker shows the top 5 states with the most COVID cases by 100K people as Texas, South Carolina, Arizona, New York, and Oklahoma. Texas is reporting the highest current case count per population, with an infection rate of 71 positive cases per 100K people.
The CDC’s weekly surveillance summary also reinforces that the numbers tend to be trending downwards: they note that the overall number of positive results from COVID-19 tests has decreased across the entire country and in all age groups. Other good news? Visits to ERs and urgent care for respiratory symptoms and illness have also decreased. Deaths have somewhat plateaued, but still remain at above-epidemic levels and the CDC is still predicting those to increase, due to the lag in deaths from reported cases. In other words, people may just now be passing away, despite being infected months ago.
What’s Happening in Hospitals Right Now
According to the most recent update from the CDC, although ER and urgent care visits have decreased, the overall hospitalization rate has remained steady. However, there is somewhat good news in that the hospitalization rate has plateaued at a steady pace— albeit above-earlier-pandemic peaks–and is not steadily increasing.
So, the need for travel nurses is still strong, although it may be shifting from some previously urgent areas. Needs may also be changing to include more step-down and critical care vs. emergent and intensive care. And in most places, you won’t be seeing those $10K weekly assignments that were available only a few weeks ago.
Instead, here are some of the highest-paying opportunities for travel nursing right now:
- Pennsylvania: over $7.3K for Med/Surg/Stepdwn/Telemetry/ER
- Georgia: over $7K for Med/Surg/Telemetry
- California: $6-7K for ICU/MICU/SICU
- New York: Over $5-6K ICU/MICU/SICU/Telemetry/ER
- Michigan: over $6K for Stepdown and Hemodialysis
What’s Happening with the Vaccine
The vaccine administration schedule has been frustrating for many people, with limited slots and availability and even stories of doses being wasted when people who are eligible for the vaccine can’t be found. (As a volunteer vaccine clinic nurse, I can attest to the fact that sadly, this does happen, although the hardworking people who are working overtime to organize vaccine programs do everything in their power to avoid wasting even one precious vaccine dose.)
The Biden administration has also been focused on ramping up both vaccine production and distribution. For instance, on Feb. 2, it was announced
that the White House will be sending vaccines directly to pharmacies across the nation in an effort to help increase vaccine administration. The program will begin on Feb 11 and will roll out on a limited basis at first, with about 6,500 doses being shipped.
As of Feb 1st, the CDC says that about 32 million people have received at least one dose of the vaccine and over 6 million million have been fully vaccinated, the majority of those going to nursing home residents. The numbers come in at approximately 1.4 million people being vaccinated every day, although, of course, that varies with vaccine availability and geographical area. The states who have the highest number of vaccines per population include Vermont, North and South Dakota, New Mexico, Alaska, West Virginia, and Oklahoma.
However, no matter which way you look at it, that’s a huge improvement from where we were even a few weeks ago. As more people receive their first and even second doses, too, it’s an opportunity for people to share their stories and experiences and hopefully, for people who are hesitant about the vaccine for any reason, to get their concerns and questions addressed.
In other vaccine news:
- The WHO reversed earlier recommendations that pregnant people NOT receive the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines after significant backlash from pregnant healthcare workers. Although they noted that they based their recommendation on the lack of data for pregnant people receiving the vaccine (as with any vaccine), there has been an argument in the medical community that healthcare professionals who are pregnant should be allowed to weigh the potential cost/benefit of the vaccine for themselves, and not have it decided for them.
- TravelNursing.org has spoken with travel nurses who have reported significant challenges in getting the COVID-19 vaccine for themselves due to their status as a traveler. Some hospitals are administering the vaccine only to staff nurses and not travelers, leaving travel nurses on their own to find a way to get the vaccine. If you are having trouble getting your vaccine through your agency or current contracted hospital, it may be helpful to contact your state or local health department for advice on how to obtain the vaccine.
- Many areas across the country are desperately seeking help from volunteer nurses to help in vaccine administration efforts. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, contact your local health department or search for volunteer efforts in your state. This is especially helpful if you are already fully vaccinated and can be of service once you are protected yourself.