The Governor of Louisiana, John Bel Edwards, warned on Wednesday that the state could run out of life-saving ventilators by next week after the number of covid-19 cases spiked dramatically in the past few days. Louisiana has currently identified at least 1,785 cases and 65 deaths from the new coronavirus, making it one of the worst-hit states in the country.
“In the New Orleans region, we’re on a course that, by April the 2nd or 3rd, we’re going to have great difficulty in getting everybody a respirator who will need one,” Governor Edwards told PBS NewsHour. “And then, every day after that, it becomes increasingly more difficult, unless, of course, we start to bend that curve.”
Edwards went on to say that the state distributed 100 ventilators on Wednesday but that Louisiana needs “at least 1,000.”
States are currently competing against each other to buy ventilators from all over the world, a crisis that would normally be avoided with cooperation at the federal level through an agency like FEMA. But President Donald Trump’s failure of management has created a situation where every state is more or less fighting on its own, desperately trying to procure medical supplies and equipment.
“We would really like some help, because, otherwise, you’re left to just beg, borrow, and steal from wherever you can get these things,” Governor Edwards said. “And, again, you’re in competition with other states. You’re in competition with your own health care providers to some degree. And the federal government will come in and make a purchase, and you find out that your purchase just got canceled.”
State officials believe that Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans on February 25 contributed to the spike in cases, as thousands took to the streets to celebrate. Louisiana Senator John Kennedy even blamed China for not giving the world a heads up about the virus before Mardi Gras, but the deadliness of the outbreak on February 25 was already well established. Disney theme parks in Hong Kong and Shanghai had been closed at the end of January, as just one example.
Nevertheless, people still gathered in large groups in New Orleans, some dressed as Corona beer-nurses with fake syringes, poking fun at the outbreaks in other parts of the world.
The state of Louisiana has conducted fewer than 12,000 covid-19 tests, another concern for public health officials who need an accurate picture of the contagion’s spread to form an effective gameplan to defeat it. At least 9,414 of those tests have been conducted at commercial labs, while 2,037 have been conducted at Louisiana’s state lab, according to the Louisiana Department of Health.
Governor Edwards issued a stay-at-home order on Monday, precisely because Louisiana has experienced one of the most troubling spikes in cases in the entire world. University of Louisiana-Lafayette Professor Gary Wagner has warned the state’s trajectory is worse than any region both inside and outside of the U.S. right now.
“If you look at the trajectory that we are on, and you go back and look at where Italy and Spain were at the same point in time that we are, we’re on a higher trajectory,” Wagner told the Daily Advertiser. “You look at where we are compared to where New York state was when they were at the same point in time, we’re on a higher trajectory than New York state.”
And that trajectory should be troubling to anyone who’s paying attention to the crisis in New York. There aren’t enough ventilators in New York City, the largest outbreak in the country, and people are already dying in the ER while waiting for ICU beds, waiting to get treated.
From the New York Times:
Elmhurst, a 545-bed public hospital in Queens, has begun transferring patients not suffering from coronavirus to other hospitals as it moves toward becoming dedicated entirely to the outbreak. Doctors and nurses have struggled to make do with a few dozen ventilators. Calls over a loudspeaker of “Team 700,” the code for when a patient is on the verge of death, come several times a shift. Some have died inside the emergency room while waiting for a bed.
A refrigerated truck has been stationed outside to hold the bodies of the dead. Over the past 24 hours, New York City’s public hospital system said in a statement, 13 people at Elmhurst had died.
Health care workers are also getting infected and dying. Kious Kelly, an assistant nursing manager in his 40s at Mount Sinai West in New York, died on Tuesday. New York’s morgues are already at capacity, according to Politico.
Meanwhile, conservative media organizations like Fox News continue to advocate for a loosening of travel restrictions inside the U.S., sometimes explicitly saying that it’s better for Americans to die than for the economy to suffer. Dinesh D’Souza, a felon who was pardoned by Donald Trump, declared on Laura Ingraham’s show last night that the spread of coronavirus is mostly in liberal states.
President Trump has even insisted that people should begin traveling again by Easter, just two weeks away. Public health officials warn that such an idea would be disastrous, of course.
It’s going to get so much worse before it gets better. And while it’s important to treat the sick, and focus on the enormous task at hand, it’s also crucial to remember what leaders like President Trump were doing during this time. There needs to be justice when we reach the other side of this crisis. And Trump’s failures to protect his own people must never be forgotten.