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Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The toll of the coronavirus pandemic has spurred nurses, front-line technicians and other hospital employees to walk out or authorize strikes.

Why it matters: The pandemic has buckled a system that already faced worker shortages and burnout. Patients ultimately can't receive adequate care if workers leave from the stress and violence.

Driving the news: Unions representing more than 24,000 nurses and other hospital workers yesterday authorized strikes at Kaiser Permanente facilities in California and Oregon.

  • A strike authorization does not automatically trigger a strike. Unions still have to provide hospitals with a 10-day notice before walking out.
  • Kaiser Permanente proposed 1% annual pay raises over the next three years and a two-tier wage system, but unions want 4% annual pay raises and no two-tier system.

Zoom out: The Kaiser Permanente fight is just the latest of several labor disputes.

  • More than 700 nurses at Saint Vincent Hospital, a Tenet Healthcare facility in Massachusetts, have been on strike for seven months.
  • Roughly 2,000 people who work at Mercy Hospital in New York, part of Catholic Health System, have been on strike since the start of October.
  • Home care workers in Connecticut rallied for higher pay last month.
  • Other recent health care strikes have taken place in Alabama, Montana and Oregon, among other places.

What they're saying: "We're drowning. There's just not enough staff," Jennifer Stone, a unionized ER technician at Sutter Delta Medical Center in California, said in a press release earlier this month. "We're talking down angry COVID patients, then we're rushing to a code ... We can't do it all anymore."

The big picture: The health care industry has lost more than 540,000 jobs between February 2020 and September 2021.

  • Hospitals are down 117,000 people, and nursing homes are down 247,000.

The bottom line: Low staffing levels are often the driving force behind health care work stoppages, and the pandemic has made that situation even worse in many areas.

Go deeper

Minnesota National Guard to assist with hospital staffing shortages

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz on April 19. Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Gov. Tim Walz (D) announced Friday that he'll put the Minnesota National Guard on alert to help ease staffing shortages at hospitals and care facilities due to the rise in COVID-19 cases among unvaccinated residents in the state.

Driving the news: Over 400 Minnesota patients are currently waiting for beds to open up at other care centers as hospitals across the state have reported that they're at or close to reaching capacity, AP reports.

Updated 17 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: Booster shots overtake first doses in the U.S. — Pfizer to vaccinate entire Brazilian city as part of study — FDA panel endorses shot of J&J booster for adultsU.S. to lift restrictions for fully vaccinated international travelers on Nov. 8.
  2. Health: New cases down, but the West is at risk — Low vaccination rates exacerbate America's caregiving crisis — COVID is here to stay. So what does "victory" look like? — FDA will review Merck COVID-19 pill.
  3. Politics: NHL announces all but four players have been vaccinated — WHO names new advisory group on COVID origins — Biden admin warns Moderna to "step up" global vaccine supply.
  4. Education: LA extends deadline for school employee vaccinations amid staffing shortage — Parent sues Wisconsin school district after child tests positive — Arizona can't use aid for anti-mask education grants, Treasury says.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Tina Reed, author of Vitals
Oct 15, 2021 - Health

FDA panel endorses shot of J&J booster for adults

Photo: Wolfgang Kumm/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Members of the Food and Drug Administration's vaccine expert panel on Friday unanimously endorsed a booster shot for adult recipients of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine at least two months after the initial dose.

Why it matters: The advisory committee raised concerns about a dearth of data to support their decision but ultimately decided to support an additional shot for those over 18.

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