The number of intensive care unit beds available in Alaska has dropped to just 38, with 125 Alaskans in hospitals now with either COVID-19 or a suspected case of the infectious coronavirus.
Alaska has 137 ICU beds, with 99 of them occupied with patients who have a variety of serious conditions.
But it’s not just about the beds. Staffing is equally a difficult issue right now as hospital workers are working under pressure. Every time a nurse or health care worker comes into contact with COVID-19, they must quarantine for two weeks, or 10 days if they have tested positive. Health care workers who are wearing surgical masks and goggles are not considered in “close contact.” But health workers are in short supply because of having to cycle out of the workforce.
Traveling nurses are hard for Alaska to attract. In some states, an ICU nurse can now earn $144 an hour, and Alaska is competing against those wages.
Alaska is not the only state feeling the pressure. In North Dakota and South Dakota, the cases are rising faster than anywhere in the country. North Dakota now has a mask mandate, has the highest per capita deaths and the highest per capita hospitalizations in the nation.
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgam wrote, “the State Health Officer, with my full support, has issued an order requiring face coverings to be worn in all indoor businesses and public settings and outdoor public settings where physical distancing isn’t possible.” The order is in effect until Dec. 13.
The shortage of medical workers is so bad in North Dakota that announced that health care workers who are positive for COVID-19 but are showing no symptoms may continue to work in COVID-19 units.
Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota told the Argus Leader on Friday that she will not use state resources to enforce any federal COVID-19 orders that are expected to come from presumed President-elect Joe Biden.
Last week, Gov. Mike Dunleavy of Alaska pleaded with Alaskans to take extra precautions as positive tests have risen dramatically and the medical system in Alaska is at risk of collapsing due to the workforce shortage.
Must Read Alaska has learned that patients from the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta region have recently been transported to Fairbanks instead of Anchorage, because of the bed-staff shortage at Alaska Native Medical Center.