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Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) lift a patient who was identified to have coronavirus disease (COVID-19) into an ambulance in New York City on Thursday. Photo: REUTERS/Stefan Jeremiah
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New York, New Orleans hospitals reel as U.S. leads world in coronavirus cases

44 Comments
By Maria Caspani and Daniel Trotta

The number of U.S. coronavirus infections climbed above 82,000 on Thursday, surpassing the national tallies of China and Italy, as New York, New Orleans and other hot spots faced a surge in hospitalizations and looming shortages of supplies, staff and sick beds.

With medical facilities running low on ventilators and protective masks and hampered by limited diagnostic testing capacity, the U.S. death toll from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus, rose beyond 1,200.

"Any scenario that is realistic will overwhelm the capacity of the healthcare system," New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told a news conference. He described the state's projected shortfall in ventilators - machines that support the respiration of people have cannot breathe on their own - as "astronomical."

"It's not like they have them sitting in the warehouse," Cuomo added. "There is no stockpile available."

At least one New York City hospital, New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center in Manhattan, has begun a trial of sharing single ventilators between two patients.

While New York was the coronavirus epicenter in the United States this week, the next big wave of infections appeared headed for Louisiana, where demand for ventilators has already doubled. In New Orleans, the state's biggest city, Mardi Gras celebrations late last month are believed to have fueled the outbreak.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said New Orleans would be out of ventilators by April 2 and potentially out of bed space by April 7 "if we don't flatten the infection curve soon."

"It's not conjecture, it's not some flimsy theory," Edwards told a press conference. "This is what is going to happen."

About 80% of Louisiana's intensive care patients are now on breathing machines, up from the normal rate of 30-40%, said Warner Thomas, chief executive of Ochsner Health System, the state's hospital group.

Scarcities of protective masks, gloves, gowns and eyewear for doctors and nurses - reports abound of healthcare workers recycling old face masks, making their own or even using trash bags to shield themselves - have emerged as a national problem.

"Our nurses across the country do not have the personal protective equipment that is necessary to care for COVID patients, or any of their patients," Bonnie Castillo, head of the largest U.S. nurses union, National Nurses United, told MSNBC.

In an ominous milestone for the United States as a whole, at least 82,153 people nationwide were infected as of Thursday, according to a Reuters tally from state and local public health agencies. China, where the global pandemic emerged late last year, had the second highest number of cases, 81,285, followed by Italy with 80,539.

At least 1,204 Americans have died from COVID-19, which has proven especially dangerous to the elderly and people with underlying chronic health conditions, Reuters' tally showed.

MORE BEDS NEEDED

For New York state, Cuomo said a key goal was rapidly to expand the number of available hospital beds from 53,000 to 140,000.

New York hospitals were racing to comply with Cuomo's directive to 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, lined up 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.

A ventilator shortfall and surge in hospitalizations has already raised the prospect of rationing healthcare.

Asked about guidelines being drafted on how to allocate ventilators to patients in case of a shortage, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy told reporters such bioethical discussions"haunted him" but were unavoidable.

Outside New York and New Orleans, other hot spots appeared to be emerging around the country, including Detroit.

Brandon Allen, 48, was buying groceries in Detroit for his 72-year-old mother, who has tested positive and was self-quarantining at home.

"It's surreal," Allen said. "People around me I know are dying. I know of a couple people who have died. I know a couple of people who are fighting for their lives. Everyday you hear of another person who has it."

RECORD UNEMPLOYMENT CLAIMS

Desperate to slow virus transmissions by limiting physical contact among people, state and local governments have issued stay-at-home orders covering about half the U.S. population. A major side effect has been the strangulation of the economy, and a wave of layoffs.

The U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday the number of Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits last week soared to a record of nearly 3.28 million - almost five times the previous weekly peak of 695,000 during the 1982 recession.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said warmer weather may help tamp down the U.S. outbreak as summer approaches, though the virus could re-emerge in the winter.

"We hope we get a respite as we get into April, May and June," Fauci said on WNYC public radio.

Washington state Governor Jay Inslee said he may extend a stay-at-home order tentatively set to expire April 6, encouraged by what he called a "very modest improvement" in the Seattle area.

Washington experienced the first major U.S. outbreak of COVID-19 and has been among the hardest-hit states. As of Thursday the state reported about 3,200 cases and 147 deaths.

In California's Coachella Valley, a region rife with retirees who are especially vulnerable, 25 members of the state's National Guard helped a non-profit distribute food to people stuck in their homes, as most of the regular volunteers are senior citizens.

More than 10,000 troops have been deployed in 50 states to provide humanitarian aid during the pandemic.

© Thomson Reuters 2020.

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

44 Comments

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Mayor de Blasio declared Queens to be "the epicenter within the epicenter". Ironic that. The people of Queens will not thank or remember kindly their famous son whose "oranges" lie there.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

Listened to Gov. Cuomo. I don't even live in NY, but listening to him, especially in light of the national leadership vacuum, just makes me feel better in these frightening times. He is a true leader, and it makes me both sad and angry that we don't have this type of example and direction coming from the WH.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2pQYtc0poxE

6 ( +14 / -8 )

I'm afraid the US is still probably still about 4-5 weeks away from its peak. The only thing that will keep critical patients alive is ventilators, and by most estimates the US are hundreds of thousands short. This could get ugly real fast.

14 ( +16 / -2 )

CrazyJoe - Listened to Gov. Cuomo. I don't even live in NY, but listening to him, especially in light of the national leadership vacuum, just makes me feel better in these frightening times.

They say that hindsight is 20/20. Now that New Yorkers have already fled, and are spreading the Novel virus in all directions, Cuomo has decided that he doesn't want to be blamed for any of the N.Y. government's past mistakes. Leading from behind must be considered a political victory. This sounds like a "Vote for Cuomo (if you're eligible to vote)".

-16 ( +4 / -20 )

This is what happens when you ignore social distancing orders.

12 ( +12 / -0 )

Knowing what was happening in China during January, the U.S. had months ahead of time to prepare. If only someone hadn't fired the pandemic team in 2018. If only someone would have appointed a competent leader with necessary experience to be in charge of the outbreak in the U.S. If only someone would take responsibility.

6 ( +15 / -9 )

Now that New Yorkers have already fled,

Perhaps because many of them were intelligent enough to understand how serious the virus is. They saw how it had devastated China. Perhaps they also understood that anything the US 'president' and his media spokespeople said like 'it's just a flu or cold', 'it's not a pandemic' possibly had to be ignored and added to the list of 15,000+ lies told to date.

8 ( +13 / -5 )

Mayor de Blasio declared Queens to be "the epicenter within the epicenter". Ironic that. 

Yes, quite.

https://www.nydailynews.com/coronavirus/ny-coronavirus-de-blasio-health-officials-resign-mismanagement-20200316-qboposyibfhdjntdz7eeq4badu-story.html

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Chicanoinjapan - Knowing what was happening in China during January, the U.S. had months ahead of time to prepare.

N.Y.C. and N.Y. state had months to prepare after it became clear that China had hidden the Novel virus from the world, and had allowed who knows how many Chinese to leave the Wuhan area. Cuomo and de Blasio argued about whether N.Y.C. should be locked down. Of course, it no longer matters now that many infected New Yorkers have already spread the virus to other areas while Democrat politicians chose to argue about who should be in charge.

N.Y.C. should be sending masks, and ventilators, to the areas where its residents have fled.

-8 ( +3 / -11 )

America chose the herd immunity approach like Britain. Getting back to normal and the end of isolating will have to last for at least 12 months til the end of the next Northern Hemisphere winter. What I see is at least 10% of the US workforce not being rehired after this virus is controlled. These people were in companies that were being propped up by the economic bubble caused by borrowing and money printing. These companies will fail or downsize. Many US companies will organize virtual work spaces and then realize wow we can employ workers from overseas this way! They will become leaner and more agile. So BOOM another 10% of the workforce is suddenly not needed. So 20% of the workforce needs to be retrained or to relocate to better economies. A lot of these 20% are not highly skilled so what will they do?

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

arrestpaul

N.Y.C. should be sending masks, and ventilators, to the areas where its residents have fled.

I am still unable to find any articles or links showing your constant claim?

9 ( +10 / -1 )

Millions of the newly 3 million unemployed will also lose their company healthcare plans without a means to pay for any virus treatment if infected.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

I dont particularly believe China's numbers.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

it makes me both sad and angry that we don't have this type of example and direction coming from the WH.

You must have missed this:

FULL TRUMP BRIEFING: President gives daily update 3/26

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IDZ0S5Q_520

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

So many poor people who don't have medical health insurance don't easily go to hospital even if they feel very sick. They are not going to take PCR test at all. So more poor people are easily infected each other and as a result they infect more people in crowds (train, bus, parties, fellas). Morons still hug and kiss each other on beaches or in parties.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Now that New Yorkers have already fled, and are spreading the Novel virus in all directions

Did this mean CV started in NYC and not China? Clarify?

N.Y.C. and N.Y. state had months to prepare after it became clear that China had hidden the Novel virus from the world

No, Trump failed because Science does not apply to him because Trump and his people don't believe in Science or evolution and think Jesus co existed with dinosaurs 3,000 years ago. Trump does not realize that Viruses don't care about Hillary or Trump tweets. Viruses don't have timelines and since Trump mistakenly thought the virus could be stopped by Trump's twitter account that is why we are where we are. Other countries are fine (so far) because Trump is not president of those countries. Namely SK and Japan. Trump has failed.

many infected New Yorkers

Trump says these are Hillary voters

N.Y.C. should be sending masks, and ventilators, to the areas

Who is going to pay for this? TrumpCare has failed.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

I dont particularly believe China's numbers.

That's not the point, nor is it relevant.

Of course China is going to blur the facts. How anyone can think that THAT is what they should be focusing on when people are sick and dying in their own country absolutely baffles me.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

michaelqtodd

America chose the herd immunity approach like Britain.

That is not correct. The British prime minister put the country in major lockdown with many businesses closed and many people working from home.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

The number of U.S. coronavirus infections climbed above 82,000 on Thursday, surpassing the national tallies of China and Italy, as New York, New Orleans and other hot spots faced a surge in hospitalizations and looming shortages of supplies, staff and sick beds.

Which could have been significantly reduced or even prevented if Trump would have listened to his intel agencies who predicted this in Jan, and if he would have seriously responded instead of downplaying and minimizing the threat - everyone remember when he said it first was a "hoax", the it was "contained?

This will go down as one of the worst and most incompetent performances by a President in our history - it has and will cost lives and wreck our economy...

Trump's picture will hang next to Hoover and Nixon's as the three Presidents whose incompetence and criminality most damaged our country...

3 ( +6 / -3 )

FULL TRUMP BRIEFING

The virus does not care about Trump briefings. All he does is blame Hillary for the virus and the virus keeps spreading - Hillary or no Hillary. Look at how incompetent Trump is handling the CV crisis and thank god he is not prime minister of Japan and you can rely on Japan's government healthcare to take care of anyone who gets sick unlike TrumpCare. What is Trump's medical plan? How are CV cases going to be paid for? Did he say he will have something better than ObamaCare when the house goes back to the Republicans (a long time from now)? Did the virus agree to wait until this happens? Do viruses follow timelines? Will the virus follow what Trump wants from Trump's twitter account?

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Of the 75 senior positions at the Department of Homeland Security, 20 are either vacant or filled by acting officials, including Chad F. Wolf, the acting secretary who recently was unable to tell a Senate committee how many respirators and protective face masks were available in the United States.

The National Park Service, which like many federal agencies is full of vacancies in key posts, tried this week to fill the job of a director for the national capital region after hordes of visitors flocked to see the cherry blossoms near the National Mall, creating a potential public health hazard as the coronavirus continues to spread.

At the Department of Veterans Affairs, workers are scrambling to order medical supplies on Amazon after its leaders, lacking experience in disaster responses, failed to prepare for the onslaught of patients at its medical centers.

Ever since President Trump came into office, a record high turnover and unfilled jobs have emptied offices across wide sections of the federal bureaucracy. Now, current and former administration officials and disaster experts say the coronavirus has exposed those failings as never before and left parts of the federal government unprepared and ill-equipped for what may be the largest public health crisis in a century.

Some 80 percent of the senior positions in the White House below the cabinet level have turned over during Mr. Trump’s administration, with about 500 people having departed since the inauguration. Mr. Trump is on his fourth chief of staff, his fourth national security adviser and his fifth secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

Between Mr. Trump’s history of firing people and the choice by many career officials and political appointees to leave, he now finds himself with a government riddled with vacancies, acting department chiefs and, in some cases, leaders whose professional backgrounds do not easily match up to the task of managing a pandemic.

“Right now for the life of me, I don’t know who speaks for D.H.S.,” said Janet Napolitano, a secretary of homeland security under President Barack Obama. “Having nonacting leadership, and I think having consistency in your leadership team and the accumulation of experience, really matters. And I think it would be fair to say the current administration hasn’t sustained that.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/26/us/politics/coronavirus-expertise-trump.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage&section=Politics

Invalid CSRF

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Which would suggest those living in Japan are more concerned about what is happening here before what's happening America.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

zichiToday  11:16 am JST

arrestpaul

N.Y.C. should be sending masks, and ventilators, to the areas where its residents have fled.

I am still unable to find any articles or links showing your constant claim?

https://www.businessinsider.com/new-yorkers-are-fleeing-the-city-to-escape-the-coronavirus-2020-3

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The number of U.S. coronavirus infections climbed above 82,000 on Thursday, surpassing the national tallies of China and Italy, as New York, New Orleans and other hot spots faced a surge in hospitalizations and looming shortages of supplies, staff and sick beds.

Yep, that virus sure was "contained" wasn't it?

With medical facilities running low on ventilators and protective masks and hampered by limited diagnostic testing capacity, the U.S. death toll from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus, rose beyond 1,200.

And the US was certainly "the most prepared", right?

https://edition.cnn.com/2020/03/07/politics/fact-check-white-house-coronavirus-contained/index.html

This botched and bungled circus goes way beyond Katrina - this will go down as the most incompetent and disastrous emergency response in our nation's history.

And there's only one person who is responsible - the clown who claims he's not responsible...

3 ( +6 / -3 )

nishikat - Did this mean CV started in NYC and not China? Clarify?

As I said, "Cuomo and de Blasio argued about whether N.Y.C. should be locked down. Of course, it no longer matters now that many infected New Yorkers have already spread the virus to other areas while Democrat politicians chose to argue about who should be in charge".

I would love to hear how you have managed to confused N.Y.C. with China.

-5 ( +4 / -9 )

Readers, please put aside your political differences on these threads.

all Ive heard from Cumo and his brother is blah blah.

Starting months ago they ignored this; it was just a side show over in China and Japan

-7 ( +1 / -8 )

America chose the herd immunity approach like Britain.

Britain abandoned this approach after the models predicted unmanageable death and disease across the country before putting the country under strict quarantine.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

"Which would suggest those living in Japan are more concerned about what is happening here before what's happening America"

Perhaps you didn't read the article?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

This goes beyond NYC. It may be the epicenter, but other states are not far behind. While most have a couple of thousand or so, this can rise to tens of thousands in a little over a week.

Many states have fewer than a hundred infections, but the whole of the USA had fewer than a hundred a month ago and yet today it has more than China.

To control the spread, a national lockdown is probably the best decision on balance.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Apparently the country needs to "go back to work" according to the president.

Expect a million infections in a month.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

nishikat:

We have to get our country back to work

Well, that is a common sense statement. But he did not say tomorrow now, didn´t he. Of course, there will have to be phased return to normality, as the virus situation gets under control. Just what are you complaining about?

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

NY needs 20,000 ventilators at the moment one for every two victims.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

as the virus situation gets under control

WRONG

While the President is telling a tale of great successes, of a government powerfully mobilizing, front-line health care workers are facing gruesome scenes in hospitals in a growing number of hot spots.

(news source)

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Ny nY brother worries about the situation. Both he and his wife have lost their work and they are trying to care for a 92 year old neighbor.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Well, that is a common sense statement. But he did not say tomorrow now, didn´t he. Of course, there will have to be phased return to normality, as the virus situation gets under control. Just what are you complaining about?

Of course the whole world is going to back to work at some point. That is the bleeding obvious.

He constantly bangs on about it being soon, and talks of churches being full at Easter. He spoke of weeks not months. However, the lockdown only affects a third of American citizens. Elsewhere, it is spreading rapidly and unseen, until we get an explosion in cases in a few weeks.

By not taking control now, the situation will be beyond his control in a very short period. Shut down today, it could be contained at a couple of hundred thousand cases. Leave it a week or so we may be talking millions.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Cases in the US will probably be 100,00 by the end of today. 200,000 by the end of next week.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

He described the state's projected shortfall in ventilators - machines that support the respiration of people have cannot breathe on their own - as "astronomical."

Then its time to get busy sourcing and making them in your state. I bet the turn around in Japan would be over night to make that.

I saw an engineer on youtube make one with parts you can buy at the hardware store and online.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

I saw an engineer on youtube make one with parts you can buy at the hardware store and online.

Really? You can make ventilators from just going to Home Depot? For example you can buy these key parts at Home Depot that make up ventilators? Like this:

Gas blender.

Gas accumulator.

Inspiratory flow regulator.

Humidification equipment.

Patient circuit.

Expiratory pressure regulator (i.e PEEP valve)

When I go to Home Depot I just see stuff like hammers and saws. I never saw the ventilator parts department or parts like mentioned above. Or can you make a ventilator out of wood and screws? Please clarify.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

google simple ventilator type 555 timer

of course its not production ready but goes to show with some innovation anything can be made

0 ( +2 / -2 )

The majority of New Yorkers don't have a car so drive through not much use. People lining up at temporary testing stations people 6 feet apart.

Ventilators have to be made according to strict regulations. In the UK the regulations are more strict Dyson designed one in ten days but will need certification.

Working with a current manufacturer shortens the certification period.

1000 of Americans are likely to die unless the strictest actions can be taken.

The $1,200 helps but won't even pay the average rent.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

of course its not production ready but goes to show with some innovation anything can be made

Sounds like a ventilator that would be more deadly than the virus itself. Can we really build a ventilator as easily as a birdhouse? Just get a few items at Home Depot and we are all good to go? Hospital grade? I want to know how it is possible to build a medical grade ventilator just by simply going to Home Depot. This is really interesting.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

A ventilator isn't a simple machine and must meet standards because people's lives depend on it. But the ventilators are not the only issue they also need trained and qualified staff to operate them.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

its not a MRI machine. It inflates the lung, patient exhales and according to some closed loop feedback the machine monitors and inflates again. So yes, it is simple

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

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