US hospitals couldn’t handle coronavirus in worst-case scenario, report claims

American hospitals would be unable to cope with the flood of patients needing care from the new coronavirus if a feared 38 million needing medical treatment in a worst-case scenario, according to a report.

If COVID-19 hits really hard it could lead to 10 million of those needing care also needing a hospital bed — and as many as 2.9 million needing intensive care, according to Medscape, citing a report from the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

The US has about 46,500 medical ICU beds, and another 46,000 could be converted in a crisis — a fraction of those that could be needed in the worst-case scenario, the report warns.

It would still be less than half of what could be needed even if the virus has just “moderate” impacts, Eric Toner, a senior scholar with the Center for Health Security and one of the authors of the report, told the site.

“We’re talking, potentially, a very large number of people,” Toner told Medscape.

“It would put a huge stress on hospitals. If it’s anything like what China experienced, our hospitals would be inundated with a whole lot of pretty sick people.”

As well as beds, COVID-19 could overwhelm the country’s supply of ventilators, even including the unknown number the government holds in a Strategic National Stockpile for emergencies, the report says.

“Not in the worst-case scenario. Hundreds of thousands of people needing ventilator support at the same time,” Tom Frieden, a former CDC director, told Medscape.

“We don’t know if anything like this worst-case scenario will occur, but we do know that there are a lot of things that would be needed in a bad pandemic, and that one of them would be ventilator support for as many patients as possible.”

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