Washington Hospitals Are Facing A Space And Supply Scarcity In The Fight Against Coronavirus
Washington State has been at the forefront of the fight against the coronavirus since January. The first confirmed case of the coronavirus in the U.S. was in the state, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Jan. 20. As of Thursday, over 17,000 people have been tested in Washington, and 1,187 have tested positive, the Washington State Department of Health reports. The death toll was at 66 as of Thursday, the highest in the country.
Washington, and more specifically, Seattle, has emerged as America’s coronavirus laboratory, highlighting the challenges and deficits in resources the country is currently facing, as local, state, and federal governments have gone into overdrive to find solutions to the shortages of critical materials like face masks and testing.
President Donald Trump has even invoked a Korean War era law called the Defense Production Act to fill the gaps in medical supplies by harnessing by requiring corporations to accept and prioritize contracts for materials necessary to aid national defense, CNN reported. “I view it — in a sense as a wartime president,” Trump said Wednesday. (RELATED: McConnell Introduces Text For Phase Three Coronavirus Stimulus Bill)
If this is war, Washington state’s doctors are on the frontline. The Navy has even sent its two hospital ships, which can be used to treat non-coronavirus patients, to allow Seattle-area hospitals to focus on the pandemic, Wired reported. King County, where Seattle is located, is creating field hospitals at multiple locations for additional isolation and quarantine sites, the Seattle Times reported.
“Hospitals in Washington State are preparing to care for a potentially large number of patients suffering from COVID-19,” Tim Pfarr, a representative of the Washington State Hospital Association told the Daily Caller. ‘Hospitals are preparing for this by canceling non-urgent surgeries to preserve hospital beds,” he said.
Pfarr notes that social distancing measures are being implemented to reduce the spread of the virus in hopes of lessening the suddenness of a potential influx of patients.
“The good news is we are hearing of patients who were hospitalized with COVID-19 recovering enough to be discharged to finish their recovery at home,” he said. The Issaquah Motel in the County is being retooled as a makeshift hospital to host people in recovery so beds in local hospitals and medical facilities could free up, according to the Seattle Times. People without complications can recover at home so precious space at hospitals can be assigned to more critical cases. Space has become a scarcity in Washington.
But the biggest concern is still personal protective equipment for hospital staff, who have reported reusing face masks after spraying or wiping them down with sanitizer, supplies of which are dwindling in some hospitals, the New York Times reported. Typically, masks should be replaced after each use, but there aren’t enough in stock at many hospitals for doctors and nurses to be able to use more than one or two per day.
“What we are much more concerned about at this moment is the lack of personal protective equipment for our health care teams who need to stay safe while they are caring for patients who may have COVID-19,” Pfarr said. “Some hospitals are down to having just days of supplies left. This includes masks, face shields and gowns.”
A pathologist and longtime professor at the University of Washington died Wednesday after contracting coronavirus at age 78, the Associated Press reported. An emergency room doctor at EverGreen Health, where dozens of coronavirus patients are being treated, also contracted the virus despite wearing protective gear, according to the Seattle Times.
Pfarr says that hospitals are trying to get as many supplies as possible from the Strategic National Stockpile. The stockpile is a repository of antibiotics, vaccines, protective gear, ventilators, and other medical equipment stored in warehouses that are strategically located around the country, NPR reported. The stockpile was created in 1999 to prepare for extraordinary and unprecedented national threats, and can fill gaps in supply chains or respond to sudden surges in demand, former homeland security official Tara O’Toole told NPR.
“We are working with state and federal officials to get as many supplies as possible from the Strategic National Stockpile and explore other alternatives,” Pfarr said. “These supplies are crucial when it comes to protecting our health care workers.”