Week Newsletter 38

12/22-12/28 Updates

Surge Capacity Issues

As hospitals struggle to expand ICU capacity, non-COVID-19 psychiatric beds are experiencing shortages.

Hospitals in Tennessee are converting waiting rooms into patient treatment areas to avoid reaching maximum capacity.

Epidemiologists are concerned about a potential Christmas-holiday surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations similar to that seen after Thanksgiving.

Surge Capacity Issues

(12/23/20) ‘Every Day Is an Emergency’: The Pandemic Is Worsening Psychiatric Bed Shortages Nationwide
While much of the focus throughout the pandemic has been on intensive care unit beds and improving emergency capacity for patients sick with COVID-19, this piece from STAT highlights the pandemic-related shortages in psychiatric beds across the United States.

(12/22/20) Tennessee Hospitals Are Disturbingly Close to Their Breaking Point
In response to surges in cases and hospitalizations for COVID-19 in recent weeks, hospitals in Tennessee are implementing emergency overflow protocols in an effort to avoid patients receiving treatment in hallways. Emergency capacity reaching maximums has led to waiting rooms converting into patient treatment areas and some patients being told to return home unless symptoms worsen.

(12/21/20) Epidemiologists Urge a Cautious Christmas, After Thanksgiving Surge in Some States
Throughout the United States, surges being attributed to Thanksgiving holiday gatherings are acting as a warning for expected future surges from gatherings over the Christmas holiday. Hospitals are currently at risk of running out of room while public health officials urge families to avoid gatherings to keep capacity available.

See More Surge Capacity Issues Resources

Policies and Guidelines

Difficulties and frustration plague the COVID-19 vaccine rollout across the US.

Policies and Guidelines

(12/28/20) As Hospitals Rollout COVID-19 Vaccines, Health Care Workers Describe Chaos and Anger
Health care workers in multiple states are reporting frustration with the vaccination process being used by individual health systems, where providers treating COVID-19-infected patients are being vaccinated secondary to providers with minimal exposure.

(12/23/20) Some Said the Vaccine Rollout Would Be a ‘Nightmare.’ They Were Right.
In this opinion piece jointly published by The New York Times and Kaiser Health News, some of the problems with vaccine distribution and allocation for the health workforce are analyzed. Issues with communication and federal oversight have led to delays and fewer vaccines being delivered to states than initially promised.

(12/21/20) 3 Lessons From Stanford’s COVID-19 Vaccine Algorithm Debacle
This article from STAT offers some lessons learned regarding the issues Stanford’s health system experienced in utilizing an algorithm to determine which health care workers would be prioritized for vaccination. These lessons include testing the algorithm more before implementation and considering how data may contain structural bias.

See More Policies and Guidelines Resources


New legislation seeks to allow audio-only telehealth calls to permanently be eligible for Medicare reimbursement. 


(12/22/20) New Bill Aims to Ensure Medicare Coverage for Audio-only Telehealth Calls
A new bipartisan bill introduced to the United States House of Representatives seeks to allow certain health care services delivered over audio-only channels to permanently be eligible for Medicare reimbursement. The federal government and many states have temporarily eased restrictions on reimbursement for audio-only calls in order to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

See More Telehealth Resources

Health Workforce Safety

Some health care workers are leaving the workforce as a result of the stress of the pandemic.

An emergency room physician and combat veteran details his experiences as a health care provider during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Health Workforce Safety

(12/24/20) ‘It’s So Much Worse Than Before.’ Dread and Despair Haunt Nurses Inside LA’s ICUs
This story from NPR discusses how pandemic-related stress and burnout have led to some nurses leaving intensive care units and seeking work elsewhere. As health care workers leave the workforce, which already faces staffing shortages, the stress becomes more difficult for those that remain.

(12/23/20) Revealed: Guardian/KHN Find Nearly 3,000 US Health Workers Died of COVID
This article discusses new analysis by The Guardian and Kaiser Health News, finding the number of health care professional deaths from COVID-19 in the United States is approaching 3,000 people. The federal government currently does not have a system to track health care worker deaths across the nation.

(12/23/20) As the Terror of COVID Struck, Health Care Workers Struggled to Survive. Thousands Lost the Fight.
This joint article from Kaiser Health News and The Guardian takes a look back at the toll the pandemic has taken in lives of health care workers from the beginning in April to the end of this year. New analysis finds many of those who died were minorities, skewed younger than the population at large, and had the highest levels of patient contact.

(12/21/20) A ‘Duty to Warn’: An ER Doctor, Shaped by War and Hardship, Chronicles the Searing Realities of COVID-19
This piece from STAT offers some perspective on the COVID-19 pandemic as detailed by an emergency room physician and combat veteran. The physician, Dr. Cleavon Gilman, has treated COVID-19-hospitalized patients for 10 months continuously, first volunteering in New York City in April, and has lost colleagues and mentors to both illness and suicide.

See More Health Workforce Safety Resources