BY DONALD A. DONAHUE AND FRANK E. RITTER
NOVEMBER 25, 2020 07:00 AM
After months of pronouncements that COVID-19’s end is just around the corner, relief is in sight! The announcement of three effective vaccines pending regulatory approval, developed in less than a year, is an historic scientific triumph. While the finish line is in sight, its proximity may be deceptive. The home stretch risk may be collapse of parts of the U.S. hospital system.
During the week of Nov. 15, the number hospitalized in the U.S. due to COVID-19 grew by 18.7%, reaching 83,217 on Nov. 21. Of 792,417 staffed beds in US community hospitals, one in ten is occupied by a COVID-19 patient.
Reports tell of exhausted hospital staff treating COVID-19 patients. The fatigue is both physical and emotional. Personal protective equipment — masks, shields, gloves and gowns — is cumbersome. It requires decontamination when taken off, often resulting in remaining in PPE for the entire workday, 8 to 12 hours, precluding such mundane tasks as drinking water or going to the bathroom.