By Stacy M. Brown | NNPA
(NNPA) – A looming healthcare crisis is on the horizon as hospitals and emergency rooms face the potential need to ration care by the month’s end, according to a chilling advisory from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC’s latest briefing underscores the swift escalation in COVID-19 hospitalizations, with a particular focus on the surge in multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C). Simultaneously, influenza is gaining momentum nationwide, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) continues to pose a significant threat in multiple regions.
Several reports noted that pediatric hospitals are grappling with a near-maximum patient load, mirroring the levels witnessed this time last year. Emergency room visits for school-age children have undergone an alarming, nearly twofold increase, driven chiefly by a surge in flu cases. The CDC said the spike follows a period of stabilized emergency room figures leading up to Thanksgiving. Strikingly, influenza-related emergency room visits have now eclipsed those for COVID-19 across most age groups, with seniors being the sole exception where COVID-19 rates remain markedly higher.
Nursing homes also are reportedly witnessing a sharp uptick in reported COVID-19 cases, particularly in the Midwestern region, where infections among residents have already surpassed last year’s peak. The emergence of the JN.1 COVID variant contributes significantly to the current wave of infections, estimated to comprise up to 29% of cases nationwide—a stark increase from 8.8% at the close of November.
According to the CDC’s projections, JN.1, a direct descendant of the highly mutated BA.2.86 variant, has become the swiftest-growing variant in the United States. While a World Health Organization panel asserts that JN.1’s alterations do not warrant a revision to this season’s vaccines, initial data raises concerns about reduced vaccine efficacy against this variant.
Despite the situation’s urgency, the CDC said vaccination rates are experiencing an unprecedented decline. Adult flu vaccinations are trailing by approximately 8 million doses compared to last year, and children’s flu shots have dipped by around five percentage points. Bridging this gap is anticipated to be a formidable challenge, according to discussions between vaccine manufacturers and the CDC.
With only a third of nursing home residents and less than 10% of staff receiving the COVID-19 vaccine this season, Dr. Mandy Cohen, Director of the CDC, expressed deep concern about the sluggish vaccine uptake. Urging healthcare providers to intensify efforts, especially among high-risk groups, she emphasizes the crucial role of vaccinations as the peak of the respiratory virus season looms.
The CDC emphasized the importance of staying updated on vaccinations against respiratory viruses. Beyond COVID-19 and influenza, a global uptick in pneumonia cases in children is also under scrutiny, officials asserted.