COVID Updates for Travel Nurses: March 17, 2021
More hope appears to be on the horizon with declining COVID case numbers and increasing vaccinations. However, concern over rising cases internationally, vaccine hesitancy and COVID-19 variants are still present.
Here’s are the latest COVID updates for travel nurses.
What’s Happening with COVID-19 Right Now
The current COVID data is a bit confusing and bordering on worrisome and hopeful According to the CDC, new cases decreased from Jan 11-Feb 26. The next week, they rose. Then, in the week of March 2, they decreased again. And as of March 10, there was a 11.2% decrease in the overall daily number of cases when looking at the past week, which the CDC called an “encouraging sign of continued progress.” However, they also noted that even with the decline, the number of cases on March 10 of 56,586 cases is still higher than the 42,597 cases reported during the first peak in the pandemic on April 6, 2020. In other words, numbers are going down, but they’re still higher than they need to be to declare us free from COVID.
The upcoming spring break for colleges and schools in the country is also causing health experts to hold their breath. The combination of pandemic fatigue, the allure of warmer weather, more vaccine protection and declining case counts could be a deadly equation, some are warning. USA Today reported an increase in flights to Florida, Disney World reservations at full capacity and bars with no masks mandates packed with spring-break goers. There is some fear that with more people traveling and not wearing masks, the opportunity for variants that will potentially resist the vaccines to spread will increase.
“I just can’t believe that less than a month after the winter surge finally subsided, we’re potentially dealing with another one,” Michael Daignault, an emergency physician in Los Angeles and chief medical adviser for Reliant Health Services, told USA Today “I don’t know what it’s going to take for people to learn their lesson. It’s very frustrating.”
What’s Happening in Hospitals Right Now
Hospitals continue to see a decline in cases, hospitalizations and deaths. As of today, the U.S. has seen 532,335 deaths from COVID-19. Overall, the recent weekly death count has decreased by 19.3%.
The CDC has also been able to analyze more data on COVID, which has allowed them to release more statistics on how the pandemic has disproportionately affected certain population groups, including American Indian and Native Americans (3.7x more likely to be hospitalized than non-Hispanic white Americans), Black or African Americans (2.9 times more likely to be hospitalized) and Hispanic and Latino people (3.1 times more likely to be hospitalized). All of the aforementioned groups also faced disproportionate rates of deaths from COVID in comparison to non-Hispanic white Americans.
The emergent need for travel nurses due to COVID-19 has definitely slowed and some nurses have even seen their crisis contracts suddenly cancelled at the lastminute. However, travel nursing is an industry that will never go away and there are still travel nursing assignments with average weekly pay available in areas such as:
- California: ER, $6.2K
- Pennsylvania: ICU/MICU/SICU, $5.8K
- North Dakota ICU/MICU/SICU, $5.8K
- Massachusetts: ICU/MICU/SICU, $5.7K
- DC: ICU/MICU/SICU, $5.4K
- Louisiana: ICU/MICU/SICU, $5.3K
- Ohio: Hemodialysis, $5.3K
- New York: Med/Surg: $4.8K
- South Dakota: Long Term Care: $4.4K
What’s Happening with the Vaccine
To date, 109 million doses of the vaccine have been administered. Close to 10% of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated. Vaccination efforts have been helped with things like mass vaccination sites and the initial rollout of pharmacy vaccinations at some major retailers, including CVS and Walgreens locations, as well as a catch-up to local health departments after severe winter storms derailed some shipments.
Overall, there have also been some reports of some vaccine eagerness ebbing, as both vaccine availability and hesitancy increase. The combination of state restrictions easing, reports of new infections decreasing and general fears about the virus somewhat slowing are all culminating in what some experts fear may be an aversion to vaccines in the coming months. In a strange way, it’s almost like the demand for a new phone or video game: now that the vaccine is becoming easier to get, fewer people are lining up to get a shot in their arm. “The more people we vaccinate, the harder we’ll have to work to get the next group in,” Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine told PEW Research Center. “Once we vaccinate the eager early acceptors, we’re going to have to go out and find people in the general population who haven’t lined up yet.”
As more people are achieving full vaccination status–defined by the CDC as two weeks after the second dose of both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines–the CDC has also released guidelines on what fully vaccinated people are allowed to do. This includes:
- Gathering indoors without masks with other fully vaccinated people (unless anyone lives with someone who has an increased risk of illness with COVID)
- Not quarantining if you’re around someone who has COVID, unless you live in a group setting
- Not testing if you’re around someone who has COVID, unless you live in a group setting or have symptoms
- Continuing precautions, such as avoiding travel and large groups and wearing a mask in public
In other vaccine news:
- Moderna has begun testing its COVID-19 vaccine in children under 12, including as young as 6 months old.
- There has been some concern internationally over the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, as there have been reports of blood clot emergencies following the administration. Despite the fact that no confirmed causation has been linked to the vaccine and the World Health Organization is continuing to recommend the vaccine, countries including Germany, Spain, Italy and France have all suspended use of the vaccine. The AstraZeneca is not yet approved for use in the U.S.
- The CDC continues to update recommendations and contradictions 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.
- A vaccine passport is on the horizon as a real possibility, although the concrete plans for who will be responsible for issuing them and how they will be used are not clear yet.
- 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.
- 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.
Travel Nurses and Burnout
There has also been more attention turned to the stress that travel nurses especially have experienced in this pandemic. The travel nursing industry largely heralded as an upbeat way to gain experience, meet new people, earn money and travel all at the same time has been completely upended in a lot of ways by the pandemic. Instead of a positive experience focused on growth and fun, travel nursing was thrust into the bellies of the COVID-19 beast, a band-aid solution to hospitals that couldn’t care for patients fast enough.
Coupled with the sudden emergent needs of caring for patients with COVID-19, the pandemic also brought severe isolation and stress to travel nurses, who were often sequestered alone in hotel housing near the hospital and forced to quarantine away from others. “I did have moments where I didn’t want to talk to anybody because I felt like no one could really understand what I was going through, and that made me feel more alone,” one travel nurse said in a CNN feature.
If you are a travel nurse, it might feel like you are only just now coming up for air after back-to-back assignments or a crisis contract suddenly getting cancelled. And if you are realizing that you are burned out or struggling with any mental health issues, be sure to take a break and reach out for the help you need. The beauty about travel nursing is that you can absolutely take a break when you need it — not only will it help you rest and ensure you can come back to work recharged and ready to help your patients again, but you can also rest assured that there will plenty of jobs to come back to.