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Health care industry fears shortage of staff amidst discussions to reopen country

PHOTO CREDIT: Misha Friedman/Getty Images

As states and the federal government begin discussing strategies to reopen the economy, many within the health care industry fear they may need additional help if further outbreaks occur.

Officials in Washington state say they expect 20 additional investigators will be needed once stay-at-home orders are lifted on May 4. Many other states have echoed this call for additional staffing needs.  Investigators are tasked with tracking down contacts of patients testing positive for the coronavirus, and getting them into quarantine, according to AP News. 

“Everybody agrees that our public health capacity at the local and state level is not ready to take this on at a very large scale without reinforcements,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Concerns over medical staffing shortages is nothing new. In mid-March, Vice President Mike Pence announced a regulation under the Department of Health and Human Services allowing doctors to practice medicine over state lines. Through this regulation, medical professionals have the ability to travel to areas where shortages may be expected or prevalent.

However, while doctors may be able to cross state lines, states still maintain specific approval processes before professionals can begin practicing. Dr. Humayan Chaudhry, president of the Federation of State Medical Boards, explained they have helped to expedite the approval process by offering free access to its physician database. The database allows hospitals to verify information, such as certifications, for each doctor. 

The federal government has provided $800 million in funding to states for coronavirus response efforts as well. The CDC developed community protection teams of 6-12 people, some of which have already been sent to states, to assist in contact tracing efforts, according to AP News

Retired physicians have also stepped up to the national frontlines to provide assistance. 

“As I look to what’s ahead for New York City, where I live, I’m thinking that if I can use my skills in some way that I will be helpful, I will step up,” said Dr. Judy Salerno, who answered the call for volunteers in New York.

Though, concerns on the forefront include the exposure posed to these increasing numbers of health care workers testing and treating infectious patients. President Trump ensured that the CDC is developing and implementing strategies to make certain medical workers are swiftly treated in cases of exposure.

“CDC has provided strategies there that aimed at helping our most critical workers, both in health care and food processing, to quickly and safely return to work after potential exposure to COVID-19, provided those workers are symptom-free,” the president said during his press briefing Wednesday.

Trump also reported yesterday that many tests have recently been identified, specifically those determining who has already been infected and potentially immune.

“Today, Abbott Labs announced that it has developed an antibody test that will determine if someone has been previously infected with the coronavirus and potentially developed immunity,” Trump said. “The company says these tests could be available to screen up to 20 million people in a matter of weeks.”

Data like this could inform authorities at community levels in determining the potential of new outbreaks and the ability to lift stay-at-home orders currently in place.

President Trump and the Coronavirus Task Force are scheduled to announce further strategies to reopen the country in a press briefing Thursday afternoon.

PHOTO CREDIT: Misha Friedman/Getty Images

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