What’s the Current State of COVID-19 in the United States?
As of March 31st, there are around 164,610 diagnosed cases of COVID-19 in the United States, leaving more than 3,000 people dead. Each state has jurisdiction over their individual medical system, which has varied the response widely state to state. Washington State, where the outbreak was initially most prominent, began testing earlier than many other states- without government approval. Their gamble may be paying off, as their cases are tapering off relative to other states like New York, California, and Louisiana.
It’s estimated that the United States tests 65,000 people for COVID-19 every day; however, in comparison to the 150,000 daily tests that health officials believe are necessary, its clear how this pandemic is impacting the healthcare system in a big way.
How Hospitals are Preparing
With cases of COVID-19 rising rapidly, hospitals are having to direct their focus to being prepared for the potential influx of patients. According to Dr. Paul Biddinger, Director of MGH Center for Disaster Medicine, many hospitals have begun to limit care to only the most urgent and essential services so they can free up space and staff to respond to the pandemic. In addition, here are a few of the most notable responses from governments and healthcare facilities.
USNS Comfort Set to Arrive in New York in April
In April, a 1,000 bed US Navy hospital ship called the Comfort will sail into New York Harbor. The ship will expand New York’s hospital capacity, which is expected to reach its maximum by the end of April or early May. This is just one example of temporary hospital facilities which may be set up by the US military for use within the month.
The US Army Corps of Engineers has also been scouring the country, looking into buildings that may be repurposed for use as hospitals. Their directives will ultimately come from FEMA, but states so far that have requested support include California, Washington, and New Jersey.
Making More Supplies
President Trump is currently putting public pressure on companies like General Motors to produce much-needed ventilators. Right now, there has not been a federal order to compel companies to do this, which could occur if the President invokes the Defense Production Act.
In the past, the President has been reticent to compel companies to do this involuntarily. Instead, he has put pressure on them to jump into production before receiving any money from the federal government, which companies like GM have said they need in order to retrofit their factories to produce ventilators.
Triaging Non-Acute Patients to Other Settings of Care
Doctors in the United States are getting the unfortunate opportunity to learn from the plight of doctors in countries like Italy and China, who have been forced to make horrific decisions regarding who lives and who dies due to a lack of medical space and supplies. To try and avoid this, many hospitals in the United States are following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and are triaging non-acute patients away from hospitals and into alternative sites of care.
The goal is to ensure that as many hospital beds as possible are available to COVID-19 patients. Hospitals can do this by rescheduling non-urgent outpatient visits and elective surgeries, and managing patients who have mild symptoms of COVID-19 at home. Many hospitals are working closely with local urgent care facilities, ASCs, and infusion centers to ensure that healthcare can still be delivered, even in this time of uncertainty.
Worried about Your Ongoing Care in the Midst of COVID-19?
Hospitals are doing everything they can to ensure that every patient receives care, regardless of their diagnosis. The best we can do as patients and non-emergency healthcare providers is to support hospitals and stand-alone medical centers in their fight against this virus. For most of us, this starts by staying home as much as possible, and seeking non-urgent care elsewhere.
If you receive ongoing infusion or injection therapy in a hospital setting, it’s likely that your care may be triaged to an alternative site of care. This may be a relief, especially if you’re already immunocompromised and can’t afford to be exposed to typical viruses- let alone COVID-19.