From the Frontlines: COVID-Testing Staffing Hell

A lab technician with a COVID test. (Image Credit: Paul Sancya)

I work in a clinic for a large university. The week before Christmas, the surge of COVID cases was apparent. It was the first site of the tidal wave. The clinic was closed between Christmas and New Year’s. When we returned, the wave overwhelmed the entire system. COVID testing staff at this time last year numbered 48. Today we have 9 staff members. One that has left is the manager of the testing site program. Several doctors who had worked in the clinic for more than a decade have left. The lab usually runs on a staff of four scientists (three full time, one part time) and one manager. There is no manager and only two full time scientists.

The contact tracing team has been tasked with contacting 200 cases just from testing in the first two days of the week upon return. Classes at the university don’t start for another two weeks and only a fraction of the students are currently on campus. The chancellor has resolutely refused to return to online learning. The wave gets higher…

The operations manager (middle management) announced yesterday that we were closing on Thursday. Most staff will ‘work from home.’ We will be on an all-day Zoom meeting discussing readings provided about medical care burnout, healthy workplace tools and generally including all staff to discuss the current state of decay at the clinic.

Since January 15th, there have been over 700 cases of COVID reported in the first week of the New Year. The contact tracing team has given up on calling all positive cases to trace contacts. Move in to the dorms happened on January 13th.