At least 1 N.Y. hospital has 2 patients on single ventilator as coronavirus cases rise

At least one New York hospital has begun putting two patients on a single ventilator machine, an experimental crisis-mode protocol some doctors worry is too risky but others deemed necessary as the coronavirus outbreak strains medical resources.

The coronavirus causes a respiratory illness called COVID-19 that in severe cases can ravage the lungs. It has killed at least 281 people over a few weeks in New York City, which is struggling with one of the largest caseloads in the world at nearly 22,000 confirmed cases.

A tool of last resort that involves threading a tube down a patient’s windpipe, a mechanical ventilator can sustain a person who can no longer breathe unaided. The city only has a few thousand and is trying to find tens of thousands more.

Dr. Craig Smith, surgeon-in-chief at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center in Manhattan, wrote in a newsletter to staff that anesthesiology and intensive care teams had worked “day and night” to get the split-ventilation experiment going.

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New York drafts health workers, builds makeshift morgue in fight against coronavirus

Just days after New York leaders ordered people to stay home, authorities mobilized to head off a potential public health disaster Wednesday, with the city’s emergence as the nation’s biggest coronavirus hot spot a warning flare — and perhaps a cautionary tale — for the rest of the country.

A makeshift morgue was set up outside Bellevue Hospital, and the city’s police, their ranks dwindling as more fall ill, were told to patrol nearly empty streets to enforce social distancing.

Public health officials hunted down beds and medical equipment and put out a call for more doctors and nurses for fear the number of sick will explode in a matter of weeks, overwhelming hospitals the way the virus did in Italy and Spain. New York University offered to let its medical students graduate early so that they could join the battle.

Worldwide, the death toll climbed past 20,000, according to a running count kept by Johns Hopkins University. The number of dead in the U.S. topped 800, with more than 60,000 infections.

New York State alone accounted for more than 30,000 cases and close to 300 deaths, most of them in New York City.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, again pleading for help in dealing with the onslaught, attributed the cluster to the city’s role as a gateway to international travellers and the sheer density of its population, with 8.6 million people sharing subways, elevators, apartment buildings and offices.

“Our closeness makes us vulnerable,” he said. “But it’s true that your greatest weakness is also your greatest strength. And our closeness is what makes us who we are. That is what New York is.”

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