How prepared Is the U.S. for a coronavirus outbreak?
By Andrew Jacobs and Sheri Fink
Today, as the country faces the possibility of a widespread outbreak of a new respiratory infection caused by the coronavirus, there are nowhere near that many ventilators, and most are already in use. Only about 62,000 full-featured ventilators were in hospitals across the country, a 2010 study found. More than 10,000 others are stored in the Strategic National Stockpile, a federal cache of supplies and medicines held in case of emergencies, according to Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Much about the coronavirus remains unclear, and it is far from certain that the outbreak will reach severe proportions in the United States or affect many regions at once. With its top-notch scientists, modern hospitals and sprawling public health infrastructure, most experts agree, the United States is among the countries best prepared to prevent or manage such an epidemic.
In plausible worst-case-scenarios given the pattern of the outbreak thus far, the country could experience acute shortages not just in ventilators but also health workers to operate them and care for patients; hospital beds; and masks and other protective equipment.
Resources are concentrated in the most populous and wealthiest cities, leaving rural areas and other neglected communities exposed to greater risk. And public health experts worry that efforts to contain an outbreak could be hamstrung by budget cuts that have weakened state health departments.