Mass. governor to activate 500 National Guardsmen to aid hospitals, EMS
Up to 300 members will begin training this week and will support 55 acute care hospitals and 12 ambulance service agencies
BOSTON — Gov. Charlie Baker on Tuesday announced new steps to combat the surge of new COVID-19 cases in the state including activating 500 members of the National Guard as well as new guidelines released by the Department of Public Health regarding mask-wearing and elective procedures at hospitals.
In a statement released Tuesday morning, Baker said the 500 members of the National Guard would address the non-clinical support needs of hospitals and transport systems.
Up to 300 members will begin training this week and will support 55 acute care hospitals, as well as 12 ambulance service providers in the state, Baker said.
The Department of Public Health examined all hospitals and ambulance service providers, with the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association, and identified five key roles where the National Guard can assist for up to 90 days.
The areas include driving ambulances for non-emergency transport between facilities, observing patients who are a risk to themselves, providing security, transporting patients in the hospital via wheelchair or if needed stretcher and food service delivery.
Guard personnel will be deployed to the field beginning Dec. 27, Baker said.
In addition to the National Guard activation, DPH updated its guidance for elective invasive procedures. As of 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 27, all hospitals are directed to postpone or cancel all nonessential elective procedures likely to result in inpatient admission in order to maintain and increase inpatient capacity.
DPH also updated its mask advisory on Tuesday, recommending that all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask or face covering in indoor, public spaces.
The news comes hours after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Monday that omicron numbers showed nearly a six-fold increase in strain’s share of infections in only one week. The latest variant now represents about three-quarters of new cases in the U.S.
In Massachusetts, new cases continued to surge on Monday as the state reported an average of 4,572 cases a day since Friday and saw hospitalizations climb past 1,500 for the first time since early February.
DPH reported a total of 13,717 new cases on Monday, the first report since Friday. Although high, the number of new cases is lower than the more than 6,000 cases reported Friday and more than 5,000 each of the two days before that.
COVID hospitalizations were at 1,513 as of Monday’s report, although they actually hit 1,524 over the weekend and have since dropped slightly. COVID hospitalization levels have not been in the 1,500s since the beginning of February when the state was coming off its second-highest spike.
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