Pennsylvania asks FEMA for help with COVID surge

A patient shows her COVID-19 vaccine card at a hospital

In this July 26, 2021, file photo, a patient shows her COVID-19 vaccine card at the Clínica Monseñor Oscar A. Romero in the Pico-Union district of Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

Pennsylvania asked the federal government on Wednesday to send health care workers to bolster hospitals and nursing homes that are increasingly under stress from persistent staffing shortages and the latest COVID-19 surge.

The Wolf administration requested that the Federal Emergency Management Agency send strike teams to hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, and ambulance companies in the hardest-hit areas of the state.

Hospitals and nursing homes statewide have been sounding the alarm as largely unvaccinated COVID-19 patients fill hospital beds, sending some acute-care facilities over capacity. Hospitals are reporting very long emergency-room wait times, while staffing shortages in nursing homes are forcing some to stop accepting new residents.

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“Our health care system is strained from COVID-19 cases and further exacerbated by persistent staffing shortages across the sector,” Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf said in a written statement Wednesday.

“I am hopeful that these critically important supports will be addressed to alleviate the strain on our health care system and ultimately be able to provide Pennsylvanians the care they need during this time,” he said.

Pennsylvania also asked FEMA to send 1 million rapid at-home coronavirus tests and to increase the state’s allocation of monoclonal antibody treatments.

Pennsylvania is averaging more than 8,500 new, confirmed infections per day, up nearly 50% in two weeks. Hospitalizations are up by two-thirds since last month, to an average of more than 4,300. Deaths have also increased nearly 50% in two weeks to 89 per day.

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