One in Five U.S. Hospitals Face Staffing Crises Within a Week

Hospital workers, many of them beleaguered since early in the coronavirus pandemic, have more pain ahead.

This week, 1 in 5 American hospitals anticipated a critical staff shortage within seven days, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The ratio was a record as cases swell and patients flood facilities for a third time since the pandemic began.

North Dakota, Missouri and Wisconsin reported the highest share, each with almost half of its hospitals in need of medical staff as of Wednesday. That tracks with the trajectory of the virus, which by some measures is ravaging the Midwest in a way the rest of the country hasn’t seen. The seven-day average of new cases in the region is higher than at any point in the Northeast, West or South, Covid Tracking Project data show.

A dearth of nurses, doctors and other key health-care workers could not only endanger patients, but also risk burning out existing staff, many of whom have been laboring — and struggling — since March. Frontline workers are vulnerable to the consequences of overwork, propelling turnover, prompting mistakes and, in the most serious cases, mental illness and even suicide.

The U.S. reported an additional 182,832 cases on Thursday, according to Covid Tracking Project data. There have been more than 252,000 deaths cumulatively, according toJohns Hopkins University.

Covid Tracking Project data show:

  • North Dakota, New Mexico and Wyoming had the most new cases per million people.
  • The states with the worst momentum are Wyoming, Vermont and Colorado, as measured by the percent change in seven-day average cases from a week earlier.
  • New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Kentucky, Oregon, Nevada and New Mexico posted record case counts Thursday.

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