Newsom warns of ‘tremendous strain’ at hospitals, defends ‘pragmatic’ policy on asymptomatic workers – KCRA Sacramento

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Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday that models show the omicron surge could drive California hospitalizations past the record of last winter and cause a “tremendous strain” for facilities in the coming weeks.
Newsom sounded the alarm after being asked by a reporter about new guidelines that say health care workers who test positive and are asymptomatic for COVID-19 are allowed to return to work. No quarantine or testing is required.
The California Nurses Association has opposed the move and Newsom was asked about whether his policies are causing COVID-19 confusion since he’s previously talked about the asymptomatic spread of the virus.
Newsom said that at this phase of the pandemic the state needed to “be flexible” to deal with the latest challenge.
“It’s called dealing with reality,” he said. “The pragmatism, not what you want, but what you need to do at a time of challenge and constraints and scarcity as it relates to resources and resources we’re competing with across the country.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday that models show the omicron surge could drive California hospitalizations past the record of last winter and cause a “tremendous strain” for facilities in the coming weeks. https://t.co/FJtLY82M4n pic.twitter.com/z7L84EvaE0
As of Sunday, there were nearly 51,200 total people in the hospitals, compared to 53,400 a year ago when the state was facing a previous surge, according to Newsom. That breaks down as 11,048 people with COVID-19 now and 22,000 then.
But Newsom said that by Friday the state anticipated a higher total hospitalization census than was the case at the peak of the pandemic last year. COVID-19 cases could go as high as 23,000 by Feb. 2, above last January’s peak, he said.
He noted the projection was “art, not science” and said “it’s manageable but it’s challenging.”
Newsom did not address cases at intensive care units, which do not appear to be rising as quickly.
But he said that roughly 4.5% of people who are infected with the omicron variant end up hospitalized and those people remain in the hospital for about 3.6 days on average. That’s less than with previous variants, he said.
“While the numbers, maybe percentage-wise are smaller, the totality of those getting this variant are such that it’s going to put tremendous strain on our hospital system,” Newsom said.
He said that total emergency department visits as of Sunday were 55,000, compared to 11,500 a year ago.
Newsom said there are now 2,250 contracted workers to supplement health care staff and the state was hoping to get 1,250 more in the next three weeks.
Dr. Ghaly explains new policy for health care workers, says omicron still has asymptomatic spread
Dr. Mark Ghaly, California’s health and human services secretary, told KCRA 3 during a conference call later Monday that the new guidelines for health care workers should not be viewed as a mandate that workers come to work while infected. The policy also doesn’t signify a shift in how experts believe omicron is spread among people who are asymptomatic, he said.
“This is in no way a requirement,” Ghaly said. “Nobody at the state is requiring health care workers to come back who are infected or quarantined. It really is meant to give added flexibility to systems as we enter in or continue in a period of significant demand.”
He said that he hopes the policy would come to an end on Feb. 1.
Ghaly added that asymptomatic health care workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 should be using N95 masks and only brought in as a last resort after systems have already “done everything they can to bring in additional health care personnel to their facilities and explored whether non-essential procedures could be delayed.”
That doesn’t change the overall picture about the spread of COVID-19 among people who don’t have symptoms.
A “large number” of people who are asymptomatic are still spreading omicron, he said.
“We see a lot many vaccinated, even boosted individuals who become infected,” he said. “They don’t have symptoms or at least not recognizable symptoms. They are infectious for a period.”
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