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American Hospitals Can Avoid Italy’s Fate

Scott Gottlieb, M.D.

By Scott Gottlieb and Luciana Borio (original source The Wall Street Journal) 

“China locked down Hubei province in late January in a last-ditch attempt to slow the novel coronavirus epidemic. But hospital admissions for Covid-19 continued to rise for another four weeks. At the epidemic’s peak, nearly 20,000 patients were hospitalized, more than 10,000 in severe or critical condition.

There are lessons here for the U.S. A rapidly escalating outbreak in a large American city would severely burden an area’s health system. Americans are doing things to try to avert this outcome: working from home, cutting down on social interactions. That will slow down chains of spread. But if two more large cities suffer rapid epidemic spread at the same time, the health system will be overwhelmed. There are steps American hospitals and policy makers can take now to increase capacity to deal with a crisis.

In Italy and China, death rates spiked when health-care systems became exhausted. Trying to keep the peak number of infections below that point of saturation is the top priority. The federal government needs to double down on communicating the risks and telling Americans to stay home and limit social gatherings. The power to limit the spread of this epidemic ultimately rests with every individual.”

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