By Miriam Raftery
March 22, 2020 (San Diego) – The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that hospitals countywide (not counting the military) have 826 respirators – and around 500 are now in use. While some additional respirators may be available by tapping into our nation’s emergency strategic supplies, if the growth in severe COVID-19 cases continues to grow at the rate it has recently, supply could soon outstrip demand, meaning life-saving treatment would not be available to all who need it.
Fortunately, we may all be able to prevent that from happening. The UT reports, “Hospital impact models suggest that it’s quite possible to make it through the coming spread of disease across the region without outstripping ventilator and hospital bed capacity, but only if a significant percentage of the populace actually follows through with the social-distancing measures that have been ordered.”
Around 1% of COVID-19 patients need ventilators –but among those patients, severe respiratory symptoms tend to appear rapidly. With immediate access to a ventilator, pressure can be applied to open up collapsed air sacs in the lungs before irreversible lung damage or death occurs. With this intervention, the patient can get enough oxygen for their own immune system to have time to kick in and start fighting off the virus.
Nationally, a shortage of ventilators has health professionals alarmed. The latest estimate from the American Hospital Association predicts that nearly a million people nationwide could need ventilators due to COVID-19, but the U.S. has only 12,700 stockpiled to supplement hospitals’ normal supply. Nearly a third of all Americans are expected to eventually contract COVID-19, which is why it’s important to stay home and spread out the time frame for exposure over a longer time period, so that hospitals won’t become overwhelmed with many critically ill patients all at once.
In Italy, where exactly that occurred, doctors have been forced to triage patients, denying ventilators to those deemed least likely to survive.
A modeling tool developed at the University of Pennsylvania indicates that in San Diego, decreasing social contacts by at least 45 percent will be needed to prevent the number of hospitalized patients from exceeding the number of hospital beds and ventilators available to treat all who need help to breathe.
Read the full Union-Tribune report: https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/health/story/2020-03-22/san-diego-hospitals-have-a-greater-than-average-ventilator-supply?fbclid=IwAR3PB71ZG22DH8uOFrcHXdk-0gG5gD1r-Z8ucoiODjlxmTZo_RTl9yhX26c