Dr. Sana Maheshwari, a New York City emergency doctor, has COVID-19.
She had seen patients with coronavirus symptoms since late February, but the number of cases coming to her hospital has increased in the past two weeks.
At around the same time, personal protective equipment (PPE) was running low in Maheshwari’s hospital, as was the case in hospitals across the country. So Maheshwari did what all American medical professionals were asked by the disease control and prevention centers last week.
She started to reuse her mask instead of throwing it away after each use, as she was taught at the medical school.
“Frankly, it felt dirty. It felt disgusting, ”Maheshwari told HuffPost. “At the end of the day, you take off all the stuff you’ve been wearing for 12 hours, and you leave the hospital and you feel really gross.”
On Monday, the 31-year-old Maheshwari woke up with a fever and tested positive for COVID-19. Since then, she has been quarantined at home alone.
While her symptoms are mild, she has already contacted her parents to let them know what to do if their health deteriorates significantly and they need to be intubated or connected to a ventilator, as they are with some other healthy ones 30-year-old has seen the virus. Her father, also a doctor, wanted to pick her up and take her to Buffalo, where the hospitals are less crowded, because he was worried that her recovery would be sour while she was alone. She refused and worried that her parents would also be infected.
“Things have to change because at the moment nothing is sustainable and I don’t see any end soon,” she said.
Maheshwari, a resident of the hospital, spoke to HuffPost on condition that the hospital was not identified by name due to policies prohibiting employees from speaking to the press.
She cannot say with certainty whether she was infected with the virus while working, but she treated virus-positive patients in an area of her emergency room dedicated to the outbreak.
Since Maheshwari fell ill on Monday, three of her colleagues have tested positive for COVID-19.
“It’s not fair at all”
Maheshwari does not believe that the federal government has acted quickly enough to protect frontline health workers from illness.
When the outbreak hit coastal hospitals, doctors, nurses, and medical staff asked the Trump administration and the general public to send them PSA and coronavirus test kits to help stop the spread of the virus.
Maheshwari’s hospital was no different.
In addition to having to reuse her masks during shifts, she saw little stock of medical gowns and face shields that protect her from infected patients who might cough up droplets during treatment.
Some of her colleagues have resorted to safety glasses designed for science laboratories that have been donated to the hospital instead of face shields. Face shields designed for healthcare workers that cover the entire face are much safer and more reliable than goggles that only cover the area around the eyes.
“It’s not fair at all,” she said of the government’s response to the PSA shortage.
Maheshwari said the lack of equipment affects workers’ ability to care for patients quickly.
Maheshwari had to wait at least once for the medical gowns to be refilled before taking care of a critical patient who was short of breath.
“It’s hard because you still just want to jump in,” she said. “But you know that you have to protect yourself too, because if you stand in for this patient [and get infected] … you won’t be there tomorrow to help the next one. “
New York City urgently needs medical equipment and hospital beds.
In the past week, the city has become the epicenter of the outbreak, with a sharp increase in confirmed cases and almost 30,000 sick people. In New York City alone, 222 deaths occurred within 24 hours, officials reported on Saturday night – 155 of these deaths have occurred since morning.
The nationwide death toll last Saturday was 728, the highest in the country.
A doctor from Elmhurst Hospital in Queens filmed a viral video for the New York Times shows a severe shortage of supplies, including fans. Maheshwari says that she and her colleagues are still being asked to maintain their PSA as much as possible.
She had colleagues who had to quarantine themselves and retired from the workforce after risky contact with an infected patient.
“Everyone reaches out and says:” You are a hero! “But the thing is, we are literally just doing our job,” said Maheshwari. “When we signed up for this job, it was not without personal protective equipment.”
“However, we feel privileged to be able to go to the hospital to fight this invisible disease and take care of our patients,” she said. “It is what we have always done and will always do. We only want to be able to do it with protection.”
“There is a big break”
At a press conference last weekend, the Coronavirus Task Force of the White House seemed defensive about the national shortage of medical devices, saying private companies like 3M, Apple, and Hanes helped make masks.
The officials also stated that they would send deliveries from the national warehouse to hospitals on a daily basis, but could not provide a precise schedule when they would actually get into the hands of the workers who needed them.
At the same press conference, President Donald Trump claimed that medical workers would throw away masks unnecessarily and asked them to “refurbish” them instead.
With today’s official virus update, Trump has:
– Accused medical professionals of having thrown away masks
– Told them to “disinfect” them with “very good liquids”.
– Accuses the Obama administrator
– Couldn’t tell when the demand for medical supply shortage would be methttps: //t.co/KoiKi1lRwG
– Carla Herreria Russo @ ♀️ (@carlalove) March 22, 2020
Trump also initially opposed calls to activate the Defense Production Law to force companies to produce more equipment, and said private companies would be more responsive to the bottlenecks.
Finally, Trump summoned the act on Friday and ordered General Motors to produce more fans – after reports of a severe fan shortage whirled around the media in New York City.
“There is a big interruption,” Maheshwari said of the government’s insistence that supplies reach those who need them. “I want them to go to the emergency room for a day. I want them to come and spend a day in life in our shoes. “
She added: “Until we use the same mask every day, we need more PPE.”
“I don’t know how long we can hold out”
Maheshwari is also concerned that another important resource has been exhausted: doctors and medical personnel themselves.
New York became the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak this week as hospitals struggle to find enough beds to accommodate an endless abundance of symptomatic patients.
As the death toll has increased, city officials have had to turn temperature-controlled trailers into morgues built outside of Manhattan hospitals. The Trump administration deployed a Navy hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, to New York City to assist.
Maheshwari is concerned that medical workers will not be able to physically keep up with demand.
“It’s tiring. I got sick. Three other people got sick. I don’t know how long we can go on,” she said.
“What happens when the doctor becomes a patient?” She asked. “We are the ED. Now that we are at the forefront, we have to bring in other specialties that we are starting with … and it is scary.”
Your hospital administration started recruiting doctors from other specialties for the emergency room and intensive care unit, but even this resource could soon be exhausted.
Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) estimates that the number of coronavirus cases in New York will only peak in two to three weeks. In the meantime, he said the state needs 110,000 more hospital beds to properly care for people. The USNS Comfort only has 1,000 beds.
Maheshwari told HuffPost that many doctors in New York are overwhelmed with fear, not only because of exposure to the virus, but also because of their dwindling energy and lack of resources to fight the outbreak.
“We are scared, scared and tired,” said Maheshwari.
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost.