COVID Updates for Travel Nurses: May 5, 2021
There have been some big developments in the COVID world in the past few weeks. While the battle against the virus continues to rage on in India, case numbers in the U.S. are looking promising. Former hot spot areas such as New York and New Jersey are lifting restrictions and multiple other states are following suit, doing away with capacity limits and masking.
Here are the latest updates that travel nurses need to know about COVID-19, from vaccines to how the virus is affecting current hospitalization rates.
What’s Happening with COVID-19 Right Now
The most recent data available from the CDC shows a current COVID-19 case count of 32,228,003 which you can compare to our last case count check two weeks ago of 31,883,289. The death count too, has remained stable, with 574,220 deaths, in comparison to our April 28th update of 569,272 deaths.
The New York Times COVID case map shows stabilizing infection rates across the country. In fact, the NYT notes that the country’s COVID numbers are beginning to drop for the first time in recent weeks, after a period of plateauing. Even hotspots like Michigan — which was #1 in the country for new infections only weeks ago — are seeing a drop in numbers.
While the new numbers are encouraging, especially on the brink of summer, the combination of variants and vaccine hesitations are leading many experts to predict that herd immunity for COVID-19 will never truly be reached. “It’s theoretically possible but we as a society have rejected that,” Dr. Gregory Poland, director of the Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research Group told USA Today when discussing herd immunity for the virus. “There is no eradication at this point, it’s off the table. The only thing we can talk about is control.”
This mean that moving forward, COVID-19 will be more like a flu: a virus we will never fully eradicate, but that can hopeful be managed and controlled through a combination of infection control measures, such as vaccinations, masking during outbreaks, social distancing, and potentially new guidelines for going into work sick.
What’s Happening in Hospitals Right Now
According to the CDC, new COVID-19 infections have dropped by 16.2% this week as compared to last week, which is good news indeed. As a comparison of where numbers are currently at, current case counts are almost 79% lower than they were during January 2021 peaks. The CDC also notes that the SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.1.7. (the “UK variant”) is the culprit behind 59.2% of COVID-19 cases in the United States, with four other main variants of concern trailing behind it.
Hospitalizations have also decreased, 9.8% from the previous week tracked. (April 14-20). This is huge news, because this is the first week hospitalizations have decreased–every other week in April marked an increase in hospital admissions.
Obviously, less new infections and fewer hospitalizations are great news, but we do have more information about the impact of COVID as well. Many people argued in the beginning of the pandemic (and some still are) that the death rate of the disease caused by the virus is so low, that it’s truly not a big deal. And it’s true that the death rate is low–only about 1-2% of people infected with COVID-19 die. However, death is not the only negative effect of the disease. According to CDC data, about 20% of unvaccinated people who become infected with COVID-19 will end up with severe disease and 5% will end up in intensive care.
Currently, the demands for COVID travel nursing assignments are nowhere near where they were this time last year, but there are some states that are seeing new demand. Here are some of the available travel nursing rates available on job boards right now:
- Oregon: General MICU/SICU, Stepdown, $6K
- Oregon: Med/Surg, $5.7K
- New Jersey: ER, $5.2K
- North Carolina: Hemodialysis, $5.2K
- Michigan: ICU, $4.9K
- North Dakota: Med/Surg and ER, $4.8K
- Idaho: ICU, $4.8K
- Massachusetts: Postpartum, NICU, $4.7K
- Michigan: MICU/SICU, Telemetry, Stepdown, $4.4-$4.8K
- Virgina: Cardiac ICU, $4.4K
- Maryland: COVID-19 ICU, $4.9K
- Idaho: ER, $4.9K
There are also many types of non-COVID travel nursing positions open, including opportunities for vaccine nurses and infusion nurses.
What’s Happening with the Vaccine
According to the CDC’s count, 247 million doses of the vaccine have currently been administered. 31.8% of the country has been fully vaccinated, while 44% of the population has received at least one dose, numbers that haven’t significantly increased since our last update.
As of April 19, every adult in every state was eligible to receive the vaccine, although overall, interest in the vaccine seems to have waned. It’s also been reported that millions of adults are skipping the second dose of the vaccine. Some have cited scheduling difficulties after initial vaccine delays with weather or manufacturing changed their appointment times, while others have expressed new hesitancy for the vaccine in light of news about the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.
And speaking of the J&J vaccine, after review for reported links to a serious blood clotting disorder called TTS, the FDA did recommend reinstating the emergency authorization of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
“The FDA has determined that the available data show that the vaccine’s known and potential benefits outweigh its known and potential risks in individuals 18 years of age and older,” they said in a press release. “At this time, the available data suggest that the chance of TTS occurring is very low, but the FDA and CDC will remain vigilant in continuing to investigate this risk.”
In other news:
- The FDA is expected to announce its emergency authorization of Pzifer’s COVID-19 vaccination for kids ages 12-15 as early as next week. It will seek authorization for ages 2-11 in September.
- Pzifer has made big bucks from the COVID-19 vaccine this year: $3.5 billion in the first quarter and an expected profit of $26 billion by the end of the year. The purchases of vaccines in the U.S. have been made by the government, so the vaccines are free to citizens, although individuals who receive the vaccine may submit insurance paperwork for any “processing” fees associated with the vaccine.
- A 35-year-old Michigan woman’s case is being investigated after she developed a headache eight days after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and then died suddenly. She died as the result of an acute subarachnoid hemorrhage in her brain, which is different from the blood clots associated with the vaccine.
- The CDC has announced that risk of infection from COVID-19 drops by 90% with full vaccination. So far, vaccinations seem effective against known variants as well.
- The CDC has relaxed restrictions on recommendations for wearing masks outdoors, saying fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks outside, unless in a crowded group situation. Some states have already lifted those restrictions voluntarily while other states, like Michigan, still have outdoor mask mandates in place for anyone over the age of 2 for group activities such as youth sports.
- 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. At least 6,0000 breakthrough cases have been reported so far. However, with breakthrough cases, COVID-19 symptoms are more likely to be less severe.