COVID Updates for Travel Nurses: February 17, 2021
The U.S. has now officially passed one year of the pandemic. The first identified infection here was January 20, 2020. For the first time, the numbers for COVID-19 in the U.S. have continued to decrease steadily over the past few weeks, prompting some cautious hopefulness in a country that has grown weary of pandemic life.
According to the CDC, as of February 12, there were less than 100,000 new cases of the novel coronavirus in the U.S., the lowest number since November of last year. In January, new infections reached above 250,000, so the drop is a significant one, although experts are warning about factors including a delay in holiday reporting and the rise of new COVID variants.
Here’s what’s new with COVID-19, the vaccine and how travel nurses can expect to be affected.
What’s Happening with COVID-19 Right Now
First, while the number of new COVID-19 cases of COVID-19 is dropping, it’s important to remember it’s because numbers were high to begin with. So while a drop to less than 100,000 is great news, it’s still an infection rate about 2.5 times higher than this summer. And the death toll has now reached 482,536 in the U.S. alone. In other words, as the CDC puts it: things are “better, but not good enough.”
The CDC case map notes a new infection average of about 28 per 10,000 people per day, with some states — like North Dakota and Michigan — hovering around an average of 10 new cases per 100,000 people per day. NPR’s state tracker shows the states with the most COVID cases per 100,000 people are South Carolina, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Virginia. South Carolina is reporting the highest current case count by population, with an infection rate of 57 positive cases per 100,000 people, which is lower than our last update, which saw Texas as the highest positive rate per capita, at 71 cases per 100,000 people.
The CDC’s weekly surveillance summary reinforces the downward trend in case numbers. In fact, they report a 69% drop in daily cases. New hospital admissions of patients with confirmed COVID-19 infections have also decreased by half since last month. However, the current caseloads are still higher than the two other pandemic peaks that we’ve seen. In other words, we’re still above the numbers we saw when the whole country first shut down. Deaths have had a negligible decline, which may reflect past infections as well. And then, of course, there are the variants. So far, all of the different variants have been found in the U.S. and the UK strain is expected to become dominant by March and could become a “fourth wave” without serious intervention, so some experts have warned that as tired as we all are, it’s not time to relax just yet.
What’s Happening in Hospitals Right Now
Right now, the entire country almost seems to be in a bit of a “wait-and-see” limbo with COVID-19. Will the vaccinations be enough to keep numbers down? Will the variants cause us to go into a fourth wave? What will happen to the virus as spring creeps up? And what will happen to the healthcare workers who are burned out from the past year?
The need for travel nurses hasn’t stopped but the high-paying crisis rates of the pandemic peaks are not readily available at the moment. Instead, the trend seems to be more needs for general MICI/SICU jobs in the $6K-7K weekly range.
Here are some of the highest-paying opportunities for travel nursing right now:
- Georgia: over $7.7K for MICU/SICU
- California: over $7.4K for Cardiac ICU
- Pennsylvania: $7.3K for Med/Surg
- Florida: Over $6.3K for Step Down
- New York: over $6K for MICU/SICU/Med-Surg/Telemetry
What’s Happening with the Vaccine
The vaccine administration program is moving right along. As of Feb. 11, the CDC notes that 46.4 million doses of the vaccine have been administered, which is roughly about 10.6% of the population. And 3.4% of the population have received their full two-dose vaccination.
Mass vaccination sites and the initial rollout of pharmacy vaccinations at some major retailers including CVS and Walgreens locations have helped the vaccine roll out.
As more people receive their first and even second doses, it’s an opportunity for people to share their 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 CDC continues to update recommendations and contraindictions to the vaccine as new information becomes available, so if you’re a nurse who is working on the vaccine program, you can familiarize yourself with the latest updates. Of special note are contraindications from known allergies.
- There have been some calls for the federal government to address the limited scope of the vaccine compensation program that any COVID-19 claims will go through. The Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program is different from the regular Vaccine Injury Program because none of the COVID-19 vaccines are recommended by the FDA yet and instead have just received emergency authorizations to be used. The Countermeasures Injury Compensation program is used for “covered countermeasures” that include vaccinations, devices, and medications against COVID-19, Zika and Ebola. Historically, the program has had a 90% rejection rate and is more difficult for consumers because it does not pay attorney fees, does not hold hearings and only can be used within one year of receiving the vaccine. “Congress needs to act to ensure that a better vaccine compensation program is in place that will provide confidence that when adverse reactions to the coronavirus vaccines occur—which one hopes will be very rare—that adequate compensation will be provided to the injured persons,” Peter Meyers wrote in an opinion piece for the Journal of Law and the Biosciences.
- 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.