States requesting federal help to combat latest surge in COVID-19 patients
Mississippi officials have requested the use of a military hospital ship.
Several states are requesting or beginning to discuss future asks for federal help in battling COVID-19 surges, according to a new federal document obtained by ABC News.
Mississippi, Florida and Louisiana are among those reporting staffing and hospital capacity concerns as the number of COVID-19 patients rise, according to an internal U.S. Department of Health and Human Services planning document obtained Wednesday.
Mississippi officials have requested the use of the military hospital ship USNS Comfort to help "provide potential [intensive care unit] capacity or a step-down unit for COVID-19 patients in the event COVID-19 hospitalization rise," according to the document.
A Mississippi health department official confirmed Wednesday that the state has requested that the federal government send a military hospital ship such as the USNS Comfort, which treated over 180 COVID-19 patients in New York City last year.
"We began conversations with them," Jim Craig, senior deputy and director of health protection, told reporters during a briefing. "The way that you do that is put a request in for the resource. So we have requested information about how the USNS Comfort and-or its resources could ... come and provide assistance in the state of Mississippi."
The state has also submitted a request for clinical support staff as health care facilities have "become stressed," according to the HHS document.
Mississippi officials addressed the dire situation the state's health care system is facing Wednesday, based on the case positivity and hospitalization rates in the past week.
"If we continue that trajectory, within the next five to seven to 10 days, I think we're going to see failure of the hospital system in Mississippi," Dr. Alan Jones, associate vice chancellor for clinical affairs of the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, said during a press briefing.
Seventy of the hospital's employees are currently in quarantine, and the medical center will be setting up a field hospital in one of its basements, hospital officials said.
Statewide, 920 more health care workers are needed amid a labor shortage, according to Gov. Tate Reeves.
"Honestly, the real challenge is NOT the physical beds -- hospital beds or ICU beds. The challenge is our hospitals may not have an adequate number of health care professionals (docs, nurses, respiratory therapists, etc.) to staff those beds," he wrote in a lengthy Facebook post on the state's COVID-19 situation.
In Louisiana, there are "significant staffing shortages in healthcare settings" along with "major concerns" about a potential massive influx of COVID-19 patients, according to the HHS document. The state was set to receive 50 Federal Emergency Management Agency ambulances in Gonzales Wednesday, it said.
Florida received 200 ventilators and other supplies earlier this week, the document noted. "Healthcare facilities are stressed," it stated, though hospitals are not asking for federal staffing support.
Elsewhere across the country, Alabama, Georgia and Oklahoma officials are working to request or are considering requesting staffing support, and Arizona officials have requested over two dozen nurses to assist at Kingman Regional Medical Center in Mohave County, according to the HHS document.
Last week, Missouri started deploying 30 FEMA ambulances statewide, HHS said. COVID-19 hospitalizations in southeast Missouri have increased 35% week-over-week, while hospitalizations in southwest Missouri are "higher than last winter's peak," though they have started to decrease, it said.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday the White House is in contact "with every governor" and has offered assistance if they need help managing COVID-19 surges.
"Every state needs something different," Psaki told reporters during a press briefing. "We are prepared to provide any kind of assistance that's going to help stem the flow of the rise of the virus."
The daily COVID-19 case average in the U.S. has surged to more than 110,000, a 25.5% jump in the last week, according to the latest federal data. Hospitalizations have also climbed to the highest point in six months, with more than 75,000 patients currently hospitalized across the country with COVID-19.
ABC News' Brian Hartman, Justin Gomez, Michelle Stoddart, Anne Flaherty, Arielle Mitropoulos and Jianna Cousin contributed to this report.
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