Foreign Desk Report
NEW YORK: The number of US 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 hospitalisations 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 US 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 epicentre 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.”