Published: 2020-03-31 23:06:28 BdST
In the face of such an onslaught, the US Army Corps of Engineers is searching for hotels, dormitories, convention centres and large open spaces to build as many as 341 temporary hospitals, Lieutenant General Todd Semonite, the head of the corps, told the ABC News "Good Morning America" program.
US officials have said the pandemic could lead to 100,000 to 200,000 deaths in the United States.
Besides straining infrastructure, the pandemic is taking a toll on doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers, who are overworked and lack the medical devices and protective gear needed.
"The duration itself is debilitating and exhausting and depressing," New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told a news conference where he revealed that his brother, CNN news anchor Chris Cuomo, had tested positive for the virus.
"I'm speaking to healthcare professionals who say, 'Look, more than physically tired, I'm just emotionally tired.'"
The corps, the engineering arm of the US Army, already joined with New York state officials to convert New York City's Jacob Javits Convention Center into a 1,000-bed hospital in the space of a week.
Workers prepare to load a deceased person into a trailer outside of Brooklyn Hospital Center during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, New York, US, March 30, 2020. Reuters
Confirmed US cases surged to nearly 180,000 with 16,000 new positive tests reported on Tuesday. For a second day in a row, the United States recorded over 500 new deaths as the total climbed to nearly 3,600, according to a Reuters tally of officially reported data.
US coronavirus-related deaths still trail those of Italy and Spain with more than 11,000 and 8,000 reported fatalities, respectively. China has 3,305. Worldwide, there are now more than 800,000 cases of the highly contagious illness caused by the virus and more than 39,000 deaths reported.
Besides the convention centre, New York has a new field hospital in Central Park and another is being built at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center where the US Open is played.
The convention centre is blocks away from the Hudson River pier where the US Navy hospital ship Comfort docked on Monday, ready to take up to 1,000 patients. It is similar to the USNS Mercy, which is already treating patients off Los Angeles.
New York remains the epicentre of the outbreak in the |United States. The state reported another 332 deaths on Tuesday, raising its total to 1,550, and another 9,298 new cases.
Authorities in New Orleans, Los Angeles and Chicago also were setting up field hospitals and convention centres.
'GASPING FOR BREATH'
An intensive care nurse at a major hospital in Manhattan said he had been shocked by the deteriorating conditions of young patients with little or no underlying health issues.
"A 28-year-old, healthy fellow ICU nurse is currently so sick that he has difficulty walking up a single flight of stairs without gasping for breath," said the nurse, requesting anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
"The apparent randomness of who gets hit and how hard is the most frightening part," he said.
In the New York City suburbs, nurses are bracing for a surge of patients. The medical surgery unit at New York-Presbyterian Hospital's Hudson Valley branch has 17 coronavirus patients, more than half its capacity, said nurse Emily Muzyka, 25.
"I had a meltdown and cried to my boyfriend," Muzyka said after a relatively healthy, 44-year-old patient declined quickly and required ventilation.
No-visitor policies mean very ill patients may die alone.
A worker checks part of a delivery of 64 hospital beds from Hillrom to The Mount Sinai Hospital during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Manhattan, New York City, US, March 31, 2020. Reuters
In a Monday night tribute to first responders, New York's landmark Empire State Building illuminated the top of its tower in red with a pulsating light on its antenna that simulated an ambulance beacon.
Meanwhile, Congress debated whether to consider another economic relief bill after passing a landmark $2.2 trillion package last week that will send checks to taxpayers, inject cash into businesses and fund hospitals.
House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Congress should focus next on state and local recovery efforts, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urged a "wait-and-see" approach.
More than 30 states have ordered people to stay at home to contain the virus, but with the side effect of strangling the economy.
Goldman Sachs on Tuesday revised down its already pessimistic outlook for the US economy, forecasting it would shrink 34% in the second quarter and projecting unemployment would rise to 15%.