‘Obviously this is an unprecedented challenge’: Health Secretary Alex Azar admits hospital system could be overrun with coronavirus cases but won’t say how many ventilators are on hand citing ‘national security’ reasons
- Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar acknowledged the ‘unprecedented challenge’ the coronavirus poses
- He wouldn’t say how many ventilators U.S. has on hand citing ‘national security’
- ‘Any pandemic like this runs the risk of exceeding our health care system capacity,’ he said response to a question from DailyMail.com
- ‘Obviously this is an unprecedented challenge,’ he noted
- Hospitals have expressed concern having enough beds and supplies
- Azar said U.S. has ‘tremendous’ supplies but working to get more
- He would not cite precise numbers
- ‘We don’t disclose concrete numbers on particular items for national security purposes,’ Azar said at the Sunday White House briefing
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President Trump’s health secretary Alex Azar acknowledged Sunday the ‘unprecedented challenge’ the coronavirus poses to the American hospital system but wouldn’t say how many ventilators the U.S. has on hand, citing ‘national security’ concerns.
‘Any pandemic like this runs the risk of exceeding our health care system capacity. We must acknowledge that,’ the Health and Human Services secretary said at a White House briefing in response to a question from DailyMail.com.
‘Obviously this is an unprecedented challenge,’ Azar noted.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar acknowledged the ‘unprecedented challenge’ the coronavirus poses
Hospitals have expressed concern about not having enough beds or ventilators should coronavirus cases grow in number
He said the administration was working to increase the number of supplies, including ventilators, available to the health industry as it combats the disease. Breathing problems are one of the main symptoms of the coronavirus.
But the secretary refused to cite specifics when it came to numbers of supplies on hand, saying it was because of ‘national security’ reasons.
The Strategic National Stockpile is the United States’ repository of antibiotics, vaccines, chemical antidotes, antitoxins, and other critical medical supplies to be used in case of an emergency.
It is meant to be deployed in case of a bioterrorism or nuclear attack – or against an infectious disease outbreak.
‘We have tremendous supplies. But we want to acquire more,’ Azar said of the stockpile. ‘And that’s thanks to the bipartisan work of Congress funding the emergency supplemental that gives us the money to scale up production here and abroad.’
‘We don’t disclose concrete numbers on particular items for national security purposes,’ he added.
Hospitals have raised concerns about the number of beds to deal with patients and the amount of ventilators to treat them should the outbreak grow worse.
A 2010 study found American hospitals had 160,000 ventilators on hand. But if the coronavirus meets the levels of the 1918 Spanish flu, reports have estimated that as many as 740,000 ventilators will be needed.
The coronavirus could result in 10 to 34 million hospital visits, according to the Harvard Global Health Institute.
The estimated 45,000 intensive care unit beds in the United States would be swamped if the number of cases grow. As of Sunday, there had been 63 U.S. deaths and over 3,400 cases.
China constructed hospitals specifically to deal with coronavirus cases to both meet the demand and avoid affecting other patients with the disease.
Vice President Pence said the coronavirus task force is working on the supply issue
President Trump stopped by the White House’s daily coronavirus briefing on Sunday to give an update on the situation
The stockpile has been deployed to deal with a variety of events, from the September 11th attacks to the 2009 swine flu outbreak.
Some supplies have been released from it for hospitals over run with coronavirus cases.
Vice President Mike Pence said the coronavirus task force was looking at that supply issue in conjunction with having more tests available to diagnosis the disease.
‘The whole issue of personal protective equipment and supplies and the capacity of our healthcare system is in the forefront of what we’re talking about,’ Pence said at the briefing in response to DailyMail.com’s question.