Doctors and nurses on the front lines of the U.S. coronavirus crisis pleaded on Friday for more protective gear and equipment to treat waves of patients expected to overwhelm hospitals as the sum of known U.S. infections climbed well past 100,000, with more than 1,600 dead.
Physicians 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 novel coronavirus.
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 about 18,000 on Friday, the highest jump in a single day, to more than 103,000.
That tally kept the United States as the world leader in the number of known infections, having surpassed China and Italy on Thursday.
“We are scared,” said Dr. Arabia Mollette of Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center in Brooklyn. “We’re trying to fight for everyone else’s life, but we also fight for our lives as well, because we’re also at the highest risk of exposure.”
The United States ranked sixth in death toll among the hardest hit countries, with at least 1,632 lives lost as of Friday night, a record daily increase of 370 according to a Reuters tabulation of official data. Worldwide, confirmed cases rose above 593,000 with 27,198 deaths, the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reported.
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.
U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday invoked emergency powers to require General Motors Co to start building ventilators after he accused the largest U.S. automaker of “wasting time” during negotiations.
He had previously resisted mounting calls for him to invoke the Defense Production Act, a Korean War-era statute that gives the president broad procurement powers in national emergencies, instead seeking to exert pressure on manufacturers to act voluntarily.
Sophia Thomas, a nurse practitioner at DePaul Community Health Center in New Orleans, where Mardi Gras celebrations late last month fueled an outbreak in Louisiana’s largest city, said the numbers of coronavirus patients “have been staggering.”
“We are truly a hotbed of COVID-19 here in New Orleans,” she said, adding that her hospital was trying to cope in part by shifting some patients to “telehealth” services that allow them to be evaluated from home.