COVID-19 Update: July 3, 2020

UNAC/UHCP COVID-19 Update: July 2, 2020

As we head into Independence Day weekend, COVID numbers are hitting all-time highs across the country. It’s almost impossible to keep up with all the frightening new data:

  • New U.S. coronavirus cases passed 50,000 yesterday for the first time, setting a new single-day record. New case numbers have nearly doubled from May to June.
  • The U.S. death toll has climbed above 128,000, with approximately 1,000 Americans dying every day from this pandemic. This means that with only 4% of the world’s population, we have 25% of cases and deaths.
  • By contrast, many other countries have flattened their curve or see cases declining.
  • Worldwide PPE supplies are estimated at 1/10th to 1/15th the need.
  • Goldman-Sachs just published an analysis suggesting that a national face mask mandate could save 5% of Gross Domestic Product for the United States by protecting the economy from further painful shutdowns.
  • A rising percentage of U.S. cases are among younger people.
  • Some medical centers are now keeping some patients at home, to increase bed capacity, monitored by doctors and nurses 24/7 using technology to track oxygen flow, blood pressure, and heat rate.
  • Traveler RNs are at a premium, their numbers stretched thin across the country—with a strike being planned in Minnesota; and a huge call for travelers in Arizona.
  • There are concerns around supply shortages of not just PPE but Remdesivir, testing supplies and even tents for testing sites.
  • With people being tested in tents, there’s concern heading into the summer of a greater hardship on all our members administering tests in these settings.
  • In the last two weeks the biggest rises in case numbers are coming in rural counties.
  • Texas has more than 6,500 hospitalized, up from April and May where numbers varied between 1,000 and 1,800.
  • Major Houston hospitals are at or near 100% capacity in their ICUs.
  • Arizona recorded 89% occupancy of ICU beds yesterday, with 5,000 new cases and 10% test positivity.
  • Cases in Florida jumped by 62% between Wednesday (5,511) and Friday (8,942) of last week.

In California:

  • Our hospitalizations are up more than 40% from two weeks ago. We’re setting near-daily record highs.
  • Many hospitals and regions in California from Kern to San Diego are seeing 10% positive rates and growing.
  • Demand for testing is increasing throughout the state, with wait times in California at least one to three hours.
  • 18-49 year-olds represent more than half of California’s new COVID cases but only 40% of our population.
  • LA County anticipates running out of hospital beds in two to three weeks at current rising hospitalization rates.
  • Governor Newsom announced yesterday the closing effective immediately of bars, indoor restaurants, movie theaters, zoos and museums in 19 counties.

What’s Happening Now

We at UNAC/UHCP, our members, leadership and staff, continue to advocate for ourselves and our patients during this crisis, as we have from the beginning of the pandemic.

  • The agreement on relaxing nurse staffing ratios in California has expired. Hospitals can reapply for 90-day extensions. We expect most will. But we must guard against abuse of the waivers.
  • We continue to call for social distancing and masking.
  • We are pushing new protocols for aerosolizing and OR procedures: face shields plus an N95 mask—medical grade preferred. We have won this protocol at Kaiser and are using that precedent to push this best practice out to independent affiliates’ facilities.
  • We continue to stress our concerns to the California Hospital Association around transparency and lack of PPE.
  • Our President, Denise Duncan, RN, has been working with state leaders, both elected officials and hospital CEOs, on the PPE issue.
  • If we must, we will file grievances for unsafe working conditions where PPE shortages jeopardize our members’ health and safety.
  • We are working to extend enhanced benefits packages we won at many of our hospitals near the onset of the pandemic: time off for members who are quarantined or test positive; childcare benefits, etc.
  • We will reach out in the coming days to see how we can further support our members, with special emphasis on those taking on the exhausting and ever-increasing work of direct care to COVID-19 patients. We know the impact of this unprecedented time falls on all of us.
  • Our members continue to win victories in patient advocacy—even our Paradise Valley RNs, whose UNAC/UHCP membership has not been certified by the NLRB, recently marched on the boss. They were asked to take an overflow of COVID patients from Imperial County without the staffing and resources to deliver safe care. Even without the protections of being recognized union members their courageous collective action won safeguards for patient safety.
  • Our members are increasingly prominent in local and national media showing our courage, caring and commitment to our patients during this pandemic, and advocating for masking, social distance and other measures to keep the public safe.
  • Currently, on NBC and MSNBC alone, if you tune in any time of the day or night, you’re likely to see our members who do direct care of COVID-19 patients talking about their experiences, what they’ve seen, learned and felt doing this hard work.

For July 4th Let’s Get Back on Track

Many of us will be in contact with friends and family over the holiday weekend, if not in person, then by phone, Facetime, Zoom or other virtual means.

This is a good chance to encourage all our loved ones and everyone we know to stay home, or wear masks and practice social distancing when forced to go out. Push this message in your social and religious organizations. #StaytheHealthHome

California before Memorial Day served as an example for the whole country of how to flatten the curve and keep people out of the hospital: shut down, stay at home, and wear masks.

With Memorial Day and a hasty opening, we reversed course and now we’re one of the hardest-hit states in the country.

Memorial Day set us back. Let’s use the Fourth of July to get back on track.

“What we have seen over the last several days is a spike in cases that are well beyond the worst spikes that we have seen,” Dr. Fauci said earlier today. “We’ve got to get that under control, or we risk an even greater outbreak in the United States.”

We have one more chance to bend the curve back down—but it will take all of us as leaders among our friends, family and community to bring about the behavioral changes needed to save lives.