United States doctors and nurses working on the front lines to fight the deadly coronavirus disease 2019 (COVOD-19) pandemic have pleaded for additional protective gear and equipment to treat waves of patients which are expected to overwhelm hospitals as the number of known U.S. infections have exceed 104,000, more than 1,700 fatalities in the US, and positive cases beyond 600,000 worldwide.
Some 894, however, have recovered from the disease, the online tracker noted.
Cases have been confirmed in all 50 states.
The figures have ranked the United States as the world leader in the number of known COVID-19 infections, surpassing China and Italy since Thursday.
Worldwide, confirmed cases rose to more than 600,000, with more than 27,800 deaths, the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reported on Saturday.
The United States ranked sixth in death toll among the hardest hit countries, with at least 1,606 lives lost as of Thursday evening, marking the first time the country had recorded more than 300 deaths in a single day, according to a Reuters tabulation of official data.
According to reports, doctors have called particular attention to a desperate need for additional ventilators, machines that help patients breathe and are widely needed for those suffering from COVID-19, the respiratory ailment caused by the highly contagious disease.
The US COVID-19 cases as of Friday surpassed 100,000 cases —continuing a trend of about 20,000 newly reported infections per day—President Donald Trump clashed with governors over ventilator needs despite overwhelmed hospitals in several areas, and he focused again on getting businesses back in operation.
Trump, in a letter addressed to the nation’s 50 governors, late Thursday said the federal government in the coming weeks intends to classify counties by COVID-19 risk, as part of a plan to reopen businesses in certain parts of the country.
According to news reports, there are 3,141 counties in the United States.
Trump said the plan will be based on surveillance testing, and counties would be designated low-risk, medium-risk, and high-risk levels, which would suggest social distancing should be decreased, maintained, or increased.
Trump’s letter comes as several governors petitioning the White House for a more direct federal response to the pandemic, most specifically in obtaining ventilators in the coming weeks.
It also comes as the US House passed a major pandemic stimulus bill and new studies point to the ease of disease spread and difficulty in containing it.
Trump also questioned New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plea for 30,000 ventilators during a phone call he made during the Sean Hannity show on Fox News. Cuomo has been critical of President Trump for failing to use the Defense Protection Act to procure ventilators.
“I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators. You know, you go into major hospitals, sometimes they’ll have two ventilators. And now all of a sudden they’re saying, ‘Can we order 30,000 ventilators?'” Trump said.
Then, Friday on Twitter, the president seemed to reverse course: “General Motors MUST immediately open their stupidly abandoned Lordstown plant in Ohio, or some other plant, and START MAKING VENTILATORS, NOW!!!!!! FORD, GET GOING ON VENTILATORS, FAST!!!!!!”
In response to Trump, Cuomo told CBS, “I operate on facts, and on data, and on numbers, and on projections. I hope we don’t need 30,000 ventilators, I hope some natural weather change happens over night kills the virus globally … but the numbers say you might need 30,000.”
The House of Representatives passed a $2 trillion stimulus relief bill, the largest such bill in US history. The passage comes 1 day after the United States surpassed China and Italy as the nation with the most cases of COVID-19 cases in the world.
Hospitals in New York City, New Orleans, Detroit and other virus hot spots have also sounded the alarm about scarcities of drugs, medical supplies and trained staff while the number of confirmed U.S. cases rose by at least 16,000 for a second straight day on Friday to nearly 102,000.
Even as hospital patient numbers steadily climbed, shortages of key medical supplies abounded.
One emergency room doctor in Michigan, an emerging epicenter of the pandemic, said he was using one paper face mask for an entire shift due to a shortage and that hospitals in the Detroit area would soon run out of ventilators.
“We have hospital systems here in the Detroit area in Michigan who are getting to the end of their supply of ventilators and have to start telling families that they can’t save their loved ones because they don’t have enough equipment,” the physician, Dr. Rob Davidson, said in a video posted on Twitter.
New York-area doctors say they have had to recycle some protective gear, or resort to the black market.
Dr. Alexander Salerno of Salerno Medical Associates, a general medical practice with offices in northern New Jersey, described going through a “broker” to pay US$17,000 for masks and other protective equipment that should have cost about US$2,500, and picking them up at an abandoned warehouse.
“You don’t get any names. You get just phone numbers to text,” Salerno said. “And so you agree to a term. You wire the money to a bank account. They give you a time and an address to come to.”
Nurses at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York said they were locking away or hiding N-95 respirator masks, surgical masks and other supplies that are prone to pilfering if left unattended.
“Masks disappear,” nurse Diana Torres said. “We hide it all in drawers in front of the nurses’ station.”
A number of hotels in New York City, including the famed Plaza Hotel, the St. Regis and the Four Seasons, are making rooms available to medical workers fearful of carrying the virus home to their families after work, or to non-critical care patients, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said.
Marney Gruber, an emergency doctor who works in multiple hospitals around New York City, said commonly used medications were in short supply and hospitals were running out of oxygen tanks.
“These are staples in emergency medicine and ICUs – these are your bread and butter, truly, your very basic essentials,” Gruber said.
At least two New York medical schools, New York University and Columbia, have said they will graduate their fourth-year students early so they can begin treating patients with the coronavirus right away.
In the nation’s second-largest city, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said cases were spiking, putting the Southern California region on track to match New York City’s infection figures in the next five days.
The mayor spoke as he and California’s governor, who ordered all coronavirus-related evictions banned through May 31, toured a newly arrived naval hospital ship equipped with 1,000 patient beds at the Port of Los Angeles. Its sister vessel is to be deployed to New York Harbor in the near future.
At the Riverside County Fairground east of Los Angeles, California National Guard troops were setting up a 125-bed medical station to serve residents of the Coachella Valley, an area teeming with elderly retirees considered especially vulnerable to COVID-19.
The U.S. military is setting up field hospitals in Seattle and New York, the Pentagon said./Stacy Ang