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New York, New Orleans hospitals reel as U.S. leads world in coronavirus cases
The Saigon Times
Friday,  Mar 27, 2020,09:18 (GMT+7)

New York, New Orleans hospitals reel as U.S. leads world in coronavirus cases

The Saigon Times

A patient is wheeled to an ambulance during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., March 26, 2020 - PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - The United States on Thursday surpassed China and Italy as the country with the most coronavirus cases, according to a Reuters tally, as New York, New Orleans and other hot spots faced a surge in hospitalizations and looming shortages in supplies, staff and sick beds.

Medical facilities were running low on ventilators and protective masks and were hampered by limited diagnostic testing capacity.

The number of U.S. cases of coronavirus reached 81,378, the Reuters tally showed. China was second with 81,285 cases, and Italy third with 80,539 cases.

At least 1,178 people in the United States have died from COVID-19, which has proven especially dangerous to the elderly and people with underlying chronic health conditions, according to a running tally based on reports from state and local public health authorities.

An expected shortfall of ventilators - machines that support respiration for people who have lost the ability to breathe on their own - was substantial, as a surge of cases overwhelms New York hospitals, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told a news conference.

“Any scenario that is realistic will overwhelm the capacity of the healthcare system,” he said. “The number of ventilators we need is so astronomical - it’s not like they have them sitting in the warehouse,” Cuomo added. “There is no stockpile available.”

At least one New York hospital has begun a trial of sharing single ventilators between two patients.

Dr. Craig Smith, surgeon in chief at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center in Manhattan, wrote to staff that teams had worked “day and night” to get the split-ventilation experiment going.

While New York was the coronavirus epicenter in the United States this week, Louisiana could be the next. In New Orleans, the state’s biggest city, Mardi Gras celebrations last month were believed to have fueled the outbreak.

Ventilator demand soars

Demand for ventilators has doubled in Louisiana, with some 80% of intensive care unit patients now on the breathing machines, said Warner Thomas, chief executive of Ochsner Health System, the state’s healthcare group.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards warned that his state, reporting about 1,800 infections, including at least 83 deaths is rapidly running out of beds and ventilators.

“If we don’t flatten the infection curve soon, we will be out of ventilators in New Orleans by April 2, and we would potentially be out of bed space for individuals by April 7,” he said at a press conference.

“It’s not conjecture, it’s not some flimsy theory, it’s not some scare tactic. This is what is going to happen.”

In New York state, the goal is to make as many as 140,000 hospital beds available, up from the current capacity of 53,000, and authorities are scouting new sites, Cuomo said.

Asked about media reports of some New York City healthcare workers resorting to using plastic trash bags to try to protect themselves, Cuomo acknowledged issues with the distribution of protective equipment and said there was enough in stock for the “immediate need” but not for the longer term.

New York hospitals were scrambling to comply with Cuomo’s directive that they increase capacity by at least 50%. At Mount Sinai Hospital’s Upper East Side location, rooms were being constructed within an atrium to open up more space for beds.

At Elmhurst Hospital in New York’s borough of Queens, about a hundred people, many wearing masks with their hoods pulled up, stood in line behind barriers outside the emergency room entrance, waiting to enter a tent to be screened for the coronavirus.

The city coroner’s office has posted refrigerated trucks outside Elmhurst and Bellevue Hospital to temporarily store bodies of the deceased.

Deborah White, vice chair of emergency medicine at Jack D. Weiler Hospital in the city’s Bronx borough, said 80% of its emergency room visits were patients with coronavirus-like symptoms.

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