FEMA to help Pennsylvania hospitals with COVID surge

HARRISBURG (AP) — Pennsylvania hospitals overwhelmed with the latest COVID-19 surge will get help from federal teams as Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration finalizes the details, Wolf’s office said Tuesday.

Wolf’s administration did not give details about how many people will be in the federal “strike teams,” what sort of expertise or equipment they will bring with them and when they could feasibly arrive at hospitals in Pennsylvania.

In a statement, Wolf’s acting secretary of health, Keara Klinepeter, said Wolf’s administration is working to determine which hospitals will receive help and what sort of resources they will get.

Wolf’s administration said it asked the federal government for help on Dec. 15, seeking health care workers to help at hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, and ambulance companies in the hardest-hit areas of Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania also asked FEMA for 1 million rapid at-home coronavirus tests and for an increase in the state’s allocation of monoclonal antibody treatments.

Hospitals and nursing homes statewide have been sounding the alarm in recent weeks as largely unvaccinated COVID-19 patients fill hospital beds, sending some acute-care facilities over capacity.

Hospitals are reporting very long emergency-room wait times, while staffing shortages in nursing homes are forcing some to stop accepting new residents.

Pennsylvania is reporting an average of almost 9,000 new, confirmed infections per day over the last two weeks, up 50% since the second half of November. The number of COVID-19 patients requiring hospital care has increased by 80% since last month, at more than 4,500 per day.