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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

Jan 15, 2022 - Health

Experts warn of more COVID-19 variants after Omicron

Three COVID-19 testing companies place testing locations outside Grand Central Terminal on Jan. 14 in New York City. Photo: Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

Experts are warning that subsequent COVID-19 variants are likely to come after Omicron, AP reports.

Why it matters: The warnings come as there's no guarantee that subsequent variants "will cause milder illness or that existing vaccines will work against them," underscoring the need for widespread vaccination, AP writes.

Rep. Lamborn may have misused official resources, ethics panel alleges

Rep. Doug Lamborn departs from a news conference held by the House Republican Israel Caucus on May 19, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Congressional ethics investigators said Monday there is "substantial reason" to believe that Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) misused official resources and solicited or accepted improper gifts from subordinates.

Driving the news: Lamborn's aides told investigators they were often asked to run personal errands for his wife, Jeanie Lamborn, and were at one point tasked with helping his son apply for a federal position, according to the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE). Lamborn strongly denies the allegations.

Biden calls Fox News reporter a "stupid son of a b---h" on hot mic

President Biden blasted Fox News' Peter Doocy on Monday after the reporter asked if the nation's soaring inflation is a political liability, saying, "what a stupid son of a b----h."

Driving the news: The Biden administration has faced rising inflation rates over recent months, which it has labeled as "transitory."

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