SEATTLE -- Hospitals across the Puget Sound region are canceling elective and non-urgent surgeries for at least a few weeks to preserve resources they think they'll need as the coronavirus outbreak grows.
Several hospitals have made the announcement that they are canceling elective and non-urgent surgeries, including:
Among the biggest concerns is whether there will be enough beds, equipment and staff to handle several large outbreaks simultaneously in multiple cities.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the National Institutes of Health’s infectious diseases chief, said it’s critical that steps be taken now to prevent the virus from spreading quickly.
“The job is to put a full-court press on not allowing the worst-case scenario to occur,” said Fauci, who appeared Sunday on several network news shows.
While he does not expect massive outbreaks in the U.S. like those in Italy, he said there is the possibility if it reaches that point that an overwhelming influx of patients could lead to a lack of supplies, including ventilators.
“And that’s when you’re going to have to make some very tough decisions,” Fauci said.
In Washington state, which leads the nation in the number of positive COVID-19 cases with more than 600 illnesses and 42 deaths, the increase in people visiting clinics with respiratory symptoms is straining the state’s supply of personal protective gear worn by health care workers.
The federal government has sent the state tens of thousands of respirators, gowns, gloves and other protective gear for health care providers. But those shipments aren’t enough, said Clark Halvorson, Assistant Secretary of Health for Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response.
The disease has infected over 162,000 people worldwide, and more than 6,000 people have died so far.
Most people who have tested positive for the virus experience only mild or moderate symptoms. Yet there’s a greater danger and longer recovery period for older adults and people with existing health problems.
The nation’s hospitals collectively have about a million beds, with 100,000 for critical care patients, but often those beds for the sickest patients are mostly filled, Scott Gottlieb, a former FDA commissioner, told CBS’ “Face the Nation.”