More U.S. medical teams to bolster states as Omicron surges

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By Reuters Staff

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Another 1,000 federal health workers are deploying to six states to help alleviate overwhelmed hospitals amid the U.S. surge in Omicron-related COVID-19 cases, the White House said on Thursday.

The teams of between seven and 25 military doctors, nurses and other personnel will head to New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Rhode Island, Michigan and New Mexico to support emergency departments and allow hospital staff to continue with other care, a White House official said.

Biden is scheduled to address his administration's COVID response at 10:30 a.m. (1530 GMT) along with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell.

His administration has deployed federal surge teams since July to combat the Delta COVID-19 variant. In December, Biden directed Austin to ready another 1,000 medical forces and sent more than 100 federal medical personnel to Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Arizona, New Hampshire and Vermont.

U.S. COVID-19 hospitalizations reached a record high this week after steadily increasing since late December, according to a Reuters tally, as the highly contagious Omicron overtook Delta as the nation's dominant variant.

There were 133,871 people hospitalized with COVID in the United States on average over the past week, the tally showed https://tmsnrt.rs/3npijjD.

The increase has strained health systems in several states and forced them to postpone elective surgeries as Omicron not only drives up case loads but also sidelines staff hit with their own COVID infections or exposures to the virus.

Several states have already declared states of emergency to loosen regulations and free up funding to cope with the surge.

Biden has come under pressure for his COVID response as Omicron triggers staff shortages across businesses and schools while testing shortages and a flurry of guidance further exhaust weary Americans.

U.S. health officials have defended their response and continued to press vaccinations and boosters, saying this week that while most people are likely to be exposed or infected with Omicron those who are vaccinated are unlikely to get very sick.

On Tuesday, the president said he was "confident we're on the right track."

His administration is in the process of shipping out millions of COVID tests that some critics said are coming too late and is weighing options to make more high-quality face masks available.

So far, 847,664 people have died from COVID amid 63,268,225 reported total cases as the outbreak enters its third year.

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