On Dec. 28, the United States broke the daily record for COVID-19 cases. The seven-day average reached 267,000, with New York, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C., among those the hardest hit.

Across the nation, hospitals are declaring "healthcare disasters" despite the Biden administration's billions of new expenditures on stimulus and subsidy expansion. At year two of the pandemic, the concern for hospitals is now due to staffing shortages. But with the highly contagious omicron variant spreading, hospitals are buckling down to maintain control.

Two hospitals in Maryland declared disaster status after seeing COVID-19 cases jump by 458% in the past month. Fermin Barrueto, the senior vice president of the University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health, said burnout and moral distress were fueling the shortages in staff. He said the crisis may last for months. The disaster declaration will allow the facilities to adjust surgery schedules and reassign staff members to address hospital needs accordingly.

West Virginia Del. Amy Summers, who is also a nurse, has been outspoken about hospitals' concerns.

"The current crisis in healthcare has been brewing for years as staff are stretched more and more so facilities can make more money. Perhaps the pandemic will cause us to look at the system flaws and figure out how to make changes. From a bedside nursing perspective, the job is becoming less fulfilling due to feelings of inadequacy and exhaustion at the end of the shift," Summers said.

"How many people go to a job day after day, work 12 hours straight, and not get a break? And if you take that break, know that one of your patients will have a need not met, so you choose not to. As patients have become sicker and need more care, staffing patterns have not changed. We are doing more care for more patients and are reaching a breaking point," she added.

Healthcare employee burnout rates averaged a range of 30% to 50% before the pandemic. That rate has since increased to levels between 40% and 70%. This has been exhibited through early retirement and young nurses leaving the profession entirely, with turnover rates as high as 60% among new nurses.

On Dec. 21, the Biden administration announced plans to combat the omicron variant by deploying 1,000 military doctors, nurses, paramedics, and other medical professionals during January and February. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will also make additional staff and beds available. Last week, 20 paramedics were sent to New Hampshire, 30 to Vermont, and 20 to Arizona, as well as 20 ambulances sent to New York.

Pennsylvania hopes to mend these divides between staff and the hospitals they work at by exploring the implementation of patient-to-nurse ratio mandates for hospitals. However, the idea is considered controversial, creating a burden for rural hospitals.

However, Kofi Ampaabeng from the Mercatus Center said the overwhelmed feeling of staff and hospitals might worsen due to existing, burdensome regulations.

"Given how easily the COVID omicron variant spreads, it was inevitable that our hospitals would be overwhelmed," he said. "However, certain state and federal health policies have only made things worse. For example, in many states, 'certificate of need' laws have limited the number of hospital ICU beds and other capital investments."

Certificate of need laws, which vary by state, are required for services ranging from hospital beds to neonatal intensive care units and drug treatment facilities. These laws have frequently been blamed for the limited access to health facilities, limited availability of beds, and overworked staff at the available hospitals. They were implemented in the 1970s when the federal government tried to reduce the cost of healthcare and were repealed nearly 10 years later. Only 35 states continue with the need-based healthcare law.