Will coronavirus stretch US hospitals to the breaking point?

Published: Mar. 17, 2020 at 3:24 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

With the number of coronavirus cases growing across the U.S., some government leaders are sounding the alarm about how the crisis could eventually stretch hospitals to their breaking point. And health care workers say they don't have the equipment they need to treat patients. The government says help is on the way.

Hospitals and clinics across the country are bracing for a surge in patients as the daily numbers of coronavirus cases continue to rise. Many say they don't have enough medical equipment to keep up.

"There's demand from across the globe. And when you don't put your orders in, other countries, other places are getting their orders and we're behind here," said Dr. David Agus, a CBS News medical consultant.

Bonnie Castillo is the executive director of National Nurses United. One of their main concerns is a shortage of N95 masks that can filter out 95% of airborne particles.

"Nurses are actually being asked to reuse masks including surgical masks which provide no protection," Castillo said.

Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence offered a solution.

"We would urge construction companies to donate their inventory of N95 masks to your local hospital," Pence said.

But what's worrying the health care industry the most is an expected critical shortage of hospital beds, as the virus spreads.

"You have people on gurneys, in hallways. That is what is going to happen now if we do nothing," said Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-New York.

President Trump promised the Army Corps of Engineers is ready to start building field hospitals in coronavirus "hot spots."

"The field hospitals go up very quickly. We have them, we have all of this equipment in stock and we're looking at sites in a few different locations," Trump said.

So far, only about 60,000 Americans have been tested for coronavirus.

The Association of Public Health Labs says some of the chemical ingredients used in those tests are in short supply.

Diagnostics testing giant Qiagen, one of the companies that makes them, says they've increased production to seven days a week to keep up with demand.

The American Red Cross says the nation is also experiencing a severe blood shortage. Some 2,700 blood drives have been canceled, resulting in 86,000 fewer donations.