COVID-19 Resources

Delta Variant and How It’s Impacting ICU Nurse Demands

COVID-19 numbers are on the rise again, largely fueled by the Delta variant and vaccine hesitancy, and ICUs across the nation are filling up fast. Many healthcare systems are still recovering from previous surges, but ICU nurses are bracing themselves for yet another spike in COVID-19 patients and wondering whether the pandemic will ever end. ICU nurses are superheroes, but even superheroes can get tired when fighting a seemingly ceaseless battle without the proper support.

What Is the Delta Variant?

Delta (B.1.617.2) is one of the many mutations of the COVID-19 virus. It was initially identified in India in December 2020, and first detected in the United States in March 2021. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that the Delta variant is nearly twice as contagious as previous variants, so it’s spreading more easily and quickly. 

Per the CDC’s Nowcast, the Delta variant became the dominant strain in the U.S. in early July of 2021. By the end of July, more than 83% of the specimens collected nationwide contained the Delta variant.

Some data collected by the CDC also indicates that the Delta variant may cause more severe illness in unvaccinated individuals. Fully vaccinated people with breakthrough infections of the Delta variant can spread the illness to others, further increasing transmissibility. Studies have shown that patients infected with the Delta variant are more likely to be hospitalized, putting further strain on healthcare resources.

How the Delta variant is Impacting ICUs

The Delta variant has brought the U.S. back to the transmission levels seen six months ago. Based on risk-assessment data from the Brown School of Public Health, half the states in the country recorded an average of 25 or more new COVID cases per 100,000 people per day during the first week of August 2021. This number was 14 the previous week and half that amount the week before, indicating that infections of the Delta variant are spreading at a startling rate.

A CDC document warns that the Delta variant appears to spread as easily as chickenpox. As the Delta variant spreads, infections and hospitalizations are rapidly increasing and ICUs are once again feeling the strain. For the first time since February, the U.S. is averaging more than 100,000 new cases a day, but this time it’s hitting younger individuals and they’re getting sicker quicker.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the CDC confirmed during a White House press briefing that the Delta variant now represents more than 83% of the virus circulating across the country. She added that compared to the virus circulating at the start of the pandemic, the Delta variant is more aggressive, much more transmissible, and one of the most infectious respiratory viruses she’s seen in her 20-year career.

Delta Variant and Vaccine Hesitancy

Vaccination remains the most effective means of controlling the pandemic and has helped with the marked decline in COVID-19 cases and deaths since the peak seen in early January 2021. Unfortunately, between June 19 and July 23, cases have increased about 300% nationwide, driven by the hyper-contagious Delta variant. The Delta variant has made getting vaccinated more urgent than ever, but most of the patients being seen in ICUs are those who can’t or won’t get vaccinated.

An ICU nurse in the Denver area who wished to remain anonymous has spent the last three of her seven years as a nurse in the ICU. She said the COVID patients in her ICU currently being treated are all unvaccinated and quite ill. She’s extremely concerned about another nationwide surge and fears there won’t be enough caregivers to absorb such a rapid increase in cases again.

Vaccines save lives,” said Surgeon General Vivek Murthy. “That’s why 99.5 percent of COVID-19 deaths and 97 percent of possible hospitalizations are among the unvaccinated.  It’s also why nearly every death from COVID-19 is a preventable tragedy.”

The vaccines authorized for emergency use in the U.S. offer high levels of protection against severe illness and death from infections of the Delta variant, as well as other variants currently circulating. While more than 161 million people in the U.S. are fully vaccinated, there’s still a great deal of vaccine hesitancy. As of August 23, 2021, the FDA has fully approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19, which will hopefully encourage more people to receive their first dose. 

“If you are not vaccinated,” Dr. Walensky said, “please take the Delta variant seriously. This virus has no incentive to let up, and it remains in search of the next vulnerable person to infect … Whether you are vaccinated or not, please know we, together, are not out of the woods yet and you will want to make thoughtful decisions to protect your health and the health of your family and your community. We are at yet another pivotal moment in this pandemic, with cases rising again and some hospitals reaching their capacity in some areas.”

Top States With High Demand for ICU Nurses

ICU nurses looking for a position where their help is greatly needed should consider travel ICU nursing jobs in states where numbers are rising rapidly, according to the Brown School of Public Health’s risk-assessment data. Many states are posting tons of openings for ICU travel nurses on Vivian,  and also have some of the highest paying contracts travel nursing has ever seen. No matter where nurses choose to travel in the coming months to help those in need, they shouldn’t forget to also attend to their own physical and mental health needs during this incredibly stressful time.

In addition to the sudden surge in patients, nurses are feeling the stress and citing burnout. Hospitals in states where numbers are becoming out of control are pushing their nurses to their limits, often leading to them leaving the bedside.  A recent survey conducted by Vivian found that 43% of nurses in the nation are considering leaving healthcare. Vivian aims to provide support to healthcare workers during this time, and is trying everything possible to help mitigate the staffing crises that are plaguing hospitals nationwide. Travel can often be a way to avoid burnout due to the higher reward and shorter contracts. Nurses always say, “I can do anything for 13 weeks”- and now- many hospitals are only asking for 4-8 weeks. 

Here’s a quick breakdown of the top 10 states seeking ICU nurses as of August 6, 2021:

1. California

 California ranked 25th by risk assessment among all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and four major U.S. territories on August 6, 2021. It posted a daily average of 27 new  COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people, which as the nation’s most populous state, translates to more than 10,500 new cases in the last seven-day period.

With over 1,600 openings, California had more ICU nursing jobs posted on Vivian than any other state. Top cities needing ICU nurses included: 

 Travel ICU nursing jobs in California were paying an average weekly salary of $2,733, but some were paying up to $8500 per week. 

2. Texas 

Texas is the second-most populous state nationwide and ranked 12th with its daily average of 40 new Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people. The state’s infection rate translated to over 11,500 new cases in the last seven-day period. More than 1,300 ICU nursing jobs in Texas were posted on Vivian, including multiple jobs in these cities: 

  • Abilene
  • Austin
  • Beaumont
  • Dallas
  • El Paso
  • Fort Worth
  • Greenville
  • Houston
  • San Antonio
  • Waco

 Texas travel nurses specializing in the ICU were earning an average weekly salary of $2,392, but some positions were paying up to $5,690 per week. 

3. Florida

Florida ranked first with the highest number of new COVID-19 infections recorded by the Brown School of Public Health. The state averaged 132.2 new daily COVID-19 infections per 100,000 people. This represented nearly 28,400 new cases in the last seven-day period and a jump of 37% compared to the previous week. Fewer than half of Floridians were vaccinated by August 6. Florida had more than 700 travel ICU nursing jobs posted on Vivian. Top cities seeking ICU nurses included: 

  • Gainesville
  • Jacksonville
  • Kissimmee
  • Middleburg
  • Miami
  • Miami Beach
  • Orlando
  • Rockledge
  • Sebring
  • Tampa

 ICU nurses in Florida were earning an average weekly salary of $2,545, but some jobs were paying up to $5,505 per week.

 4. Missouri

 Despite dropping one spot to 7th place, Missouri’s transmission rate was still on the rise. The state had nearly 3,000 new cases in the last seven-day period after recording 48.5 new daily Covid-19 infections per 100,000 people, up 19% from the previous week. Only 41.8% of Missouri residents were fully vaccinated, a slight increase over last week. Over 400 ICU nursing jobs were posted in Missouri, including numerous positions in these cities: 

  • Branson
  • Columbia
  • Joplin
  • Kansas City
  • North Kansas City
  • Osage Beach
  • Saint Louis
  • Springfield
  • Warrensburg
  • West Plains

The average weekly salary for travel ICU nurses in Missouri was $2,758, but some contracts were paying as much as $4,988 per week. 

5. Georgia

Georgia ranked 13th with an average of 38.7 cases per 100,000 people per day, translating to over 4,100 new cases in the last seven-day period. More than 400 ICU nursing jobs were posted on Vivian in Georgia. ICU nurses were in-demand statewide, including in these cities:  

  • Atlanta
  • Augusta
  • Brunswick
  • Carrollton
  • Columbus
  • Conyers
  • Gainesville
  • Lawrenceville
  • Savannah
  • Valdosta

Travel ICU nursing jobs in Georgia had an average weekly salary of $2,566, but some positions were paying up to $5,024 per week.

 6. Virginia

 Ranked 34th, Virginia had 16.1 new cases per 100,000 people, working out to more than 1,300 new cases in the last seven-day period. Nearly 400 ICU nursing jobs were available throughout Virginia, including numerous openings in these cities: 

  • Alexandria
  • Falls Church
  • Fort Royal
  • Fredericksburg
  • Hopewell
  • Newport News
  • Richmond
  • Reston
  • Roanoke
  • Salem

Travel ICU nurses in Virginia were earning an average weekly salary of $2,322, but some jobs paid up to $3,575 per week.

7. Washington

 Washington ranked 24th, posting 26.7 new cases per 100,000 people and more than 2,000 new cases in the last seven-day period. Over 350 ICU nursing jobs in Washington were posted on Vivian. Top cities seeking ICU nurses included: 

  • Aberdeen
  • Bellingham
  • Federal Way
  • Richland
  • Seattle
  • Silverdale
  • Spokane
  • Tacoma
  • Vancouver
  • Wenatchee

The average weekly wage of ICU nurses in Washington was $2,238, but some contracts were paying up to $4,809 per week. 

8. North Carolina

 Ranked 19th, North Carolina averaged 29.6 new cases per day per 100,000 people, which translated to more than 3,100 new cases in the last seven-day period. There were over 450 ICU nursing jobs in North Carolina posted on Vivian, including multiple openings in these cities: 

  • Asheville
  • Chapel Hill
  • Charlotte
  • Concord
  • Durham
  • Fayetteville
  • Oxford
  • Raleigh
  • Shelby
  • Winston-Salem

Travel ICU nursing jobs in North Carolina were paying an average weekly salary of $2,378, but some openings paid up to $4,355 per week.

 9. Michigan 

Although Michigan ranked 51st, it still averaged 8.1 new cases per day per 100,000 people, translating to 809 new cases in the last seven-day period. More than 300 ICU nursing jobs in Michigan were available throughout the state, including many in these cities: 

  • Ann Arbor
  • Dearborn
  • Detroit
  • Kalamazoo
  • Lansing
  • Monroe
  • Novi
  • Saginaw
  • Southfield
  • Warren

The average weekly salary for travel ICU nurses in Michigan was $2,344, but some positions paid up to $4,859 per week.

10. Arkansas

 Arkansas was posting an average of 69.5 new cases per 100,000 people every day, logging a jump of 19% since last week and ranking 4th on the risk-assessment list. While only 41.8% of Arkansas residents were fully vaccinated, that’s a major improvement over the 36.2% documented the previous week. Healthcare systems throughout Arkansas posted over 300 travel ICU nursing jobs. Top cities needing talented ICU nurses included: 

  • Conway
  • El Dorado
  • Fort Smith
  • Harrison
  • Jonesboro
  • Little Rock
  • Pine Bluff
  • Rogers
  • Siloam Springs
  • Springdale

 Travel ICU nurses working in Arkansas were earning an average weekly salary of $2,500, but some contracts were paying up to $3,835 per week.

 Other states at the tipping point with rapidly rising COVID-19 cases seeking ICU nurses included: 

Stay Safe and Encourage Safe Practices 

The pandemic definitely isn’t over and it’s important for healthcare workers nationwide to help inform the public of best practices to help everyone remain as safe as possible. As the COVID-19 hyper-contagious Delta variant continues to spread, Vivian Health recommends following CDC recommendations, which include: 

  • Wearing a mask indoors that covers your nose and mouth, even if you’re vaccinated
  • Social distancing by staying at least six feet apart from others
  • Avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces
  • Washing your hands frequently or using hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available
  • Getting vaccinated, if you can, as soon as it’s available to you

 Most importantly, nurses and healthcare workers everywhere should take care to remain safe as they care for COVID patients, so they can continue the fight against this unprecedented foe. 

Apply to one of the states with a high need for ICU nurses today with Vivian.

Thank you to ALL of the nurses out there that are fighting on the frontlines and saving the lives of the citizens of this country. We at Vivian cannot say enough how honored we are to be a part of your lives during this time. 

Moira K. McGhee

Moira K. McGhee is Vivian’s Content Writer & Editor. As part of the Vivian Health team, she strives to help support the empowerment of nurses and other medical professionals in their pursuits to find top-notch travel, staff, per diem and local contract positions.

Comment (1)

Any news on NJ?
I’m a R.N.


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