Omicron is “inherently milder” than Delta among children under 5, new study shows

A National Guard pilot was trained in hospital procedures at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, Massachusetts last month. The Massachusetts National Guard has activated soldiers and airmen to help address the shortage of medical personnel. (Joseph Prezioso/AFP/Getty Images)

FEMA Director Dean Cresswell is set to announce in White House News Friday new steps from the Biden administration to help alleviate a staff shortage in hospitals across the country amid the spread of the variable Omicron.

On Thursday, an administrative official told CNN, Criswell “has directed an expansion of FEMA’s policy to support governors in using the National Guard to meet urgent staffing needs in health care facilities.”

This guidance from FEMA means governors have more flexibility in using National Guard members for hospital support services.

“Now, FEMA has given governors the flexibility to perform critical support tasks at primary medical facilities when doing so, in the opinion of public health officials, is necessary to maintain the provision of medical care for Covid-19 in those facilities, and not to do so from would pose a direct threat to public health and safety,” the official said.

These additional services that National Guard members can now provide include “activities such as laundry services, food preparation and delivery, biomedical waste removal, perimeter fencing, contracted security guards, professional cleaning, and other related services,” the official said.

More background: This expanded assistance comes as cases continue to rise and the number of hospitalizations continues to rise. Health care systems in some states are suffering from near-full intensive care units. Nineteen states have less than 15% remaining capacity in their intensive care units. Four of them have less than 10%: Kentucky, Alabama, Indiana and New Hampshire, according to data released Wednesday by the US Department of Health and Human Services. The rise in cases has reduced the number of hospital staff, from doctors to support staff.

President Biden announced Thursday that the United States has deployed 120 military medical personnel to six additional hard-hit states: Michigan, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Rhode Island and New Mexico.

Since Thanksgiving, he said, more than 800 military and other federal personnel have been deployed to 24 states, tribes and territories, including more than 350 military doctors, nurses and medical doctors. More than 14,000 National Guard personnel are also activated in 49 states. He noted that all of these deployments are fully paid for by the Covid relief package that Congress passed early last year. He said he has also directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to ensure there is sufficient bed capacity in every state.

Friday’s announcement is aimed at alleviating an additional staff shortage. The costs of using the National Guard will be paid for by FEMA, according to Biden’s statement, through April 1.

Cresswell joins White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki in the briefing room at 11:45 a.m. ET.

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