Whichever competing model of the coronavirus turns out to be more accurate, the fact remains that hospitals in the U.S. are still going to be saturated with coronavirus patients, at least in the hot spots, for some period of time. The hottest of those hot spots right now is New York. You’ve probably seen the Financial Times graph showing how various countries compare in terms of coronavirus deaths over time. There’s another version of the graph that shows infections by state compared to regions around the world:
The label for the yellow line got cut off, but that’s Wuhan. As you can see, New York is not doing well thus far. Hopefully the curve will begin to bend now that there’s a stay at home order in place. However, the state is still expecting the number of infections to peak in 2-3 weeks.
Last week, the NY Times was already reporting on a “deluge” of coronavirus cases in some New York hospitals:
“The most striking part is the speed with which it has ramped up,” said Ben McVane, an emergency room doctor at Elmhurst Hospital Center in Queens. “It went from a small trickle of patients to a deluge of patients in our departments.”
At Elmhurst, a 545-bed public hospital that serves a large population of undocumented immigrants and low-income residents, coronavirus patients have begun to crowd out others. Protective gear is running low. Doctors are worried there will be a shortage of ventilators.
Today the Times published a video report from the same hospital, Elmhurst. Dr. Colleen Smith is an ER doctor who sees a lot of the infected patients when they come into the hospital. She describes a situation where people in authority keep saying everything is fine but from her perspective, “everything is not fine.” She points out the refrigerated truck the hospital hired to store bodies. She says the number of people coming to the ER has doubled.
One of Dr. Smith’s worries is that even people who come into the ER with other complaints are turning out to have signs they already have the virus. “We started to realize that patients who were coming in with no fever but abdominal pain actually had findings on their x-rays and chest CTs that were consistent with this coronavirus,” she said. She goes on to say that 10 residents and several nurses and attending physicians have already gotten sick.
Dr. Smith said she doesn’t see how the hospital can continue to deal with things as they are now for several more months. Hopefully that won’t be the case, but at least for this moment in time it’s a very sobering perspective.