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$6,000 a week: Demand for nurses amid COVID surge has hospitals bracing for staffing shortages

in People
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 26: Healthcare professionals screen people entering the emergency room at Highland Hospital on March 26, 2020 in Oakland, California. Dozens of health care workers with Alameda Health System staged a protest to demand better working conditions and that proper personal protective equipment be provided in the effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

In the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, it was unceasing demand for masks, face shields and other protective gear for health care workers that strained the system. Now, as the deadly virus spreads out of control across the entire country, the dominant concern is over a shortage of medical workers themselves.

Already, traveling nurse companies are seeing a record number of job openings — and skyrocketing pay rates — as hospitals scramble to staff up to meet the need brought on by soaring COVID-hospitalization rates. Medical systems, such as UCSF, that once dispatched their nurses and doctors to hotspots such as New York City are now refusing to part with their staff, mindful that they, too, may need all hands on deck. And the pleas from public health officials to stay home over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend are becoming increasingly urgent, with social distancing and masking being the primary way to prevent hospitals from filling up in the absence of a vaccine.

In the last several days, California has recorded more cases than ever — topping 20,000 new cases on Monday alone. Across the U.S., more than 178,000 new cases and 2,200 deaths were recorded Tuesday. More than 88,000 people are in the hospital with the coronavirus this Thanksgiving, including nearly 700 in the Bay Area — the most since August.

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