The US has recorded a record number of hospitalisations due to Covid-19, according to the US Department of Health and Human Servicesas the daily infection rate soared to more than 1.35m.
According to Reuters there were 1.35m new Covid infections on Monday, also a record high. Measures vary and observers point out that many home tests are not officially logged. But NBC News reported at least 1,343,167 new infections.
The highly contagious Omicron variant has seen hospitalisations double in the last three weeks. The seven-day average for new cases has tripled in two weeks to more than 700,000 a day.
A large number of Covid cases tend to be reported on Mondays due to many states not reporting over the weekend, but the 1.35m total comfortably outstrips the previous record of 1.03m, recorded on Monday 3 January.
Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, Vermont, Virginia, Washington DC and Wisconsin have reported record levels of Covid-19 cases recently.
Only seven states have not set records for Covid-19 cases in 2022: Arizona, Idaho, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio and Wyoming, Reuters said.
As cases and hospitalisations soar, health authorities around the US are increasingly taking the once unthinkable step of allowing nurses and other workers infected with Covid to stay on the job if they have mild symptoms or none at all, the Associated Press reported.
The move is a reaction to the severe hospital staffing shortages and crushing caseloads that Omicron is causing.
California health authorities announced over the weekend that hospital staff members who test positive but are symptom-free can continue working. Some hospitals in Rhode Island and Arizona have given employees similar guidelines.
In December, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said healthcare workers who have no symptoms can return to work after seven days with a negative test but that the isolation time “can be cut further if there are staffing shortages”.
The threat of Omicron and number of new cases has led to an increased demand for tests, with long lines and shortages around the country.
On Monday the White House said insurance companies will be required to cover eight over-the-counter at-home tests per person each month starting on 15 January.
In December, Joe Biden said half a billion at home tests would be sent free to Americans, beginning in January.