Can America’s Healthcare System Cope With a Coronavirus Outbreak?

In China, hospitals are overrun with coronavirus victims. Emergency rooms are packed with people waiting hours to see a doctor.

Healthcare workers are exhausted from the huge influx of patients. At least eight medical professionals have died after treating patients.

The coronavirus has gotten out of hand in China, where it started in December. And now it has spread to at least 23 other countries.

Very soon hospitals and clinics in these countries could be taxed beyond their capabilities. The coronavirus is on the verge of being declared a pandemic by the World Heath Organization.

A U.S. Outbreak Could Be Imminent

The big question on everyone’s minds in the U.S. is, “Could it happen here?”
As of this writing, there have been “only” 15 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in America. And no deaths.

That could change in a hurry. In South Korea, there were 28 cases in mid-February and 763 just 10 days later.

Italy’s confirmed cases went from 10 to 152 in three days. Fifty people in Iran have died from the virus. Globally, there have been approximately 79,000 confirmed cases and about 2,500 deaths.

If the coronavirus spreads as rapidly in the U.S. as elsewhere, how will that affect our healthcare system? Could the medical community contain the virus? Or will it spiral out of control?

Pandemic Preparation

As you read this, hospitals and medical centers across the U.S. are preparing for the coronavirus to “take a foothold in the U.S.”

Those are the words of Dr. Nancy Messonnier. She’s the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

Officials at these facilities have been warned to “open up your pandemic plans and see that things are in order.”

Dr. Anne Schuchat from the CDC says healthcare providers need to prepare for a “surge at a hospital (and) the ability to provide personal protective equipment for your workforce.”

‘No One Is Ready’

If the coronavirus becomes a pandemic and spreads in the U.S., emergency rooms will be overrun. Shortages of medicine will occur.

Many hospitals are already stretched thin by a worse-than-normal flu season. A huge increase in people sickened by the coronavirus would be catastrophic.

Although many hospitals are doing what they can to prepare, they’re facing a big challenge. Dr. Tara O’Toole is a bioterrorism and biosafety expert. Here’s what she says.

“No one is ready for a worst-case scenario for a really bad, lethal, fast-moving pandemic.” She added that keeping critically ill patients in isolation will be difficult with limited space.

What If Healthcare Workers Stay Home?

Here’s something I consider one of the most frightening potentials regarding a coronavirus pandemic.

If it spreads quickly in the U.S., how will healthcare workers react?

We’d like to think they will respond by rolling up their sleeves and doing everything possible to help the ill.

But a survey revealed that about one-half of healthcare workers would stay home during a pandemic. They’d choose protecting themselves and their families over risking infection.

Shortages and Distribution Problems

We might say, “Hey, you knew the risks when you chose this profession. You owe it to your fellowman to do your jobs.”

But what would we do if we knew going to work might result in falling ill and spreading the disease to family members?

Here’s another major concern as we contemplate the possibility of the coronavirus spreading rapidly in the U.S.

There will very likely be a shortage of medicine to treat symptoms of the coronavirus.

And there will undoubtedly be supply distribution problems. Due to quarantines and delivery personnel falling ill.

Stockpile These Items Now

We know our healthcare facilities and workers may not be capable of providing the care we need during a pandemic. It’s up to us to be ready. Here are some items we should have ready to help us deal with the situation.

  • Survival food. Stock up on nutritious food with long shelf lives. At least three months’ worth.
  • Clean drinking water. As much as you have room to safely store. Also have kitchen and portable water purifiers. And fluids containing electrolytes.
  • N95 respirator masks. Surgical masks won’t do the trick. Respirator masks are much more effective.
  • First-aid kit. This should be a comprehensive kit, including fever and cough medications, thermometer, and anti-diarrhea meds.
  • Hand soap, laundry detergent, cleaning supplies including bleach, anti-bacterial wipes and paper towels.
  • Tactical flashlights. Power could go out during a pandemic, so each member of your household should have one.
  • Large garbage bags and smaller plastic bags for waste.
  • Toilet paper. You can never have too much of this item.
  • Disposable paper products including cups, plates and bowls.
  • Disposable rubber gloves. Another item you should have plenty of.
  • Emergency radio. At some point during a pandemic, the Internet could go out. A radio will help you learn what’s going on around you, including where to go for help, which areas to avoid, etc.
  • Pet food, litter, bedding and toys for all your pets.
  • Duct tape. Just because. You might find many more uses for it than you’d suspect.

Be Prepared for the Worst

A quick spread of the coronavirus in America will cause huge problems for hospitals and other healthcare facilities.

Going outside your home during a pandemic might be risky. And potentially deadly.

The best thing we can do for ourselves – before it happens – is to be prepared. Stocking up on the things you’ll need most is the best way to safeguard yourself and family members. And that includes plenty of survival food.

About Jeff Reagan, Editor, Jeff Reagan's Daily Health Newsletter for Conservatives

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