With more than 6,000 deaths from coronavirus, US health officials and state leaders across the country are urging a stronger response to the outbreak.
In New York, where 2,468 people have died from the virus, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state has about six days left before it runs out of ventilators.
“It’s like watching a slow-moving hurricane across the country, where you know the path that it’s taking. Why not deploy the national resources and just stay ahead of the hurricane?” he said Thursday.
“It’s very simple: A person comes into the ICU unit. They need the ventilator, or they die. It’s that basic proposition,” Cuomo said.
At least 245,573 Americans have been infected, and all states but Wyoming have reported deaths.
To slow the numbers’ rise, the nation’s top experts — who have predicted at least 100,000 Americans may die — say aggressive social distancing measures are now more important than ever.
Looking at the country’s pace of new infections, it’s clear not every American is following federal social distancing guidelines, White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said Thursday night.
“Just to everybody out there across the country, when we say no gatherings of 10, we want to be clear: If you have a family of 10, we don’t want you to be split up, … (but) no dinner parties, no cocktail parties,” she said.
And at this point, all states should issue stay-at-home orders, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
“I don’t understand why that’s not happening,” he said Thursday. “If you look at what’s going on in this country, I just don’t understand why we’re not doing that. … We really should be.”
Though President Donald Trump has said he does not plan to issue a nationwide stay-at-home order, nearly all states have done so. The 10 that have not are: Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.
In Georgia, where Gov. Brian Kemp this week announceda stay-at-home order, the state Department of Health leaders said new data show the measures are vital.
“Until now, containing the spread of Covid-19 has been based on early detection and isolation of people with symptoms of the virus,” state health commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey said.
“Social distancing and keeping people apart from each other are now more than just recommendations; they are the best weapons we have to stop the spread of Covid-19,” Toomey said.
Virus can be spread through breathing, experts say
New federal guidelines are also expected soon on wearing face masks to help curb the spread of the virus, Trump said Thursday, adding that the guidance won’t require all Americans to use face coverings.
“I don’t think they’ll be mandatory because some people don’t want to do that,” he said, adding that Americans who do want to wear face coverings can “decide for themselves.”
The announcement came a day after a panel of experts told the White House that research shows coronavirus can be spread not just by sneezes and coughs but also by talking and possibly breathing.
“While the current (coronavirus) specific research is limited, the results of available studies are consistent with aerosolization of virus from normal breathing,” according to a letter written by Dr. Harvey Fineberg, chairman of a committee with the National Academy of Sciences.
New guidance for reducing the spread of the virus in long-term care facilities was also issued Thursday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, in consultation with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It includes screening staff for symptoms and starting temperature checks, as well as instructing staff members to wear face masks when inside facilities.
Residents should cover their noses and mouths when staff are in their room, the guidance indicates. “Residents can use tissues for this,” it states. “They could also use cloth, non-medical masks when those are available.”
New York City’s EMTs face tough decisions
In the hardest-hit part of the country, new guidance offers a grim glimpse into New York City’s dire circumstances.
New York City Emergency Medical Service (EMS) teams that cannot find or restart a pulse while administering CPR on adult cardiac arrest patients are instructed not to bring those patients to hospitals, according to a memo obtained by CNN and the chair of the regional emergency medical advisory committee familiar with the edict.
The new guidance, issued as a temporary change in response to the pandemic, is in place to help prevent the spread of the virus to EMS workers.
“In the event a resuscitation is terminated, and the body is in public view, the body can be left in the custody of NYPD,” the memo states.
The city’s hospitals, struggling to respond to patients constantly streaming in, have said a shortage of personal protective equipment is putting the medical workers on the front lines at risk of contracting the virus.
One third-year resident there said she goes to work feeling “like a sheep going to slaughter.”
“My colleagues and I are writing our last will and testament. I’m 28 years old,” Dr. Laura Ucik said. “We fear that we may not survive this pandemic and yet we show up every day to this hospital to take care of our community. We’re running out of (personal protective equipment), we’re running out of pain medicine, we’re running out of sedatives, we’re running out of oxygen masks.”