By HEATHER HOLLINGSWORTH and MICHAEL KUNZELMAN
The COVID-19 pandemic has created a nurse staffing crisis that is forcing many U.S. hospitals to pay top dollar to get the help they need to handle the crush of patients this summer. The problem, health leaders say, is twofold: Nurses are quitting or retiring, exhausted or demoralized by the crisis. And many are leaving for lucrative temporary jobs with traveling-nurse agencies that can pay $5,000 or more a week. The explosion in salaries has wreaked havoc on hospitals without deep enough pockets.