HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP/KDKA) — Pennsylvania asked the federal government on Wednesday to send health care workers to bolster hospitals and nursing homes that are increasingly under stress from persistent staffing shortages and the latest COVID-19 surge.

The Wolf administration requested that the Federal Emergency Management Agency send strike teams to hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and ambulance companies in the hardest-hit areas of the state.

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Hospitals and nursing homes statewide have been sounding the alarm 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.

A spokesperson for UPMC told KDKA its rooms are just about full. Its hospitals are being slammed with COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients, UPMC said, adding that other hospitals with similar issues are diverting patients to UPMC.

Allegheny Health Network reports similar issues, and Washington Health System said the spike in COVID-19 cases is comparable to what it experienced last year. Washington Health System said it has between 45 and 50 COVID-19 patients on any given day.

“Our health care system is strained from COVID-19 cases and further exacerbated by persistent staffing shortages across the sector,” Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf said in a written statement Wednesday.

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“I am hopeful that these critically important supports will be addressed to alleviate the strain on our health care system and ultimately be able to provide Pennsylvanians the care they need during this time,” he said.

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

Pennsylvania is averaging more than 8,500 new, confirmed infections per day, up nearly 50% in two weeks. Hospitalizations are up by two-thirds since last month, to an average of more than 4,300. Deaths have also increased nearly 50% in two weeks to 89 per day.

According to a UPMC spokesperson, unvaccinated patients it cares for are seven times more likely to be admitted to the hospital than those who are vaccinated.

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