Dr. Irwin Redlener, pediatrician and director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, warned of a worsening medical supply shortage as the coronavirus continues to spread, offering his remarks on Friday’s edition of SiriusXM’s Breitbart News Tonight with host Rebecca Mansour and special guest host John Hayward.
“The entire United States is going to experience this extraordinary crisis that we’re staring down, but the thing is it may not happen in every state and every place at the same time,” said Redlener. “It‘s virtually inevitable that we will be seeing this outbreak intensifying in one place after another. That said, I think what most of us in the field would have liked to have seen was some more a kind of explicit direction and guidance from the federal government.”
A lack of standard operating practices from the federal government in responding to pandemics made America more vulnerable to the coronavirus, assessed Redlener, lamenting the “lack of clear guidance “from federal authorities regarding crowd-size limits. The absence of an established “public health strategy” to address pandemics “has resulted in a lot of freelancing by governors and mayors, who are all basically trying to do the best they can,” he added.
“I think it’s pretty inevitable that Florida is going to get pretty significantly hit, when how, I don’t know,” Redelner speculated. “Will they end up with school closures and some of these more draconian steps have been taken elsewhere? I would say probably.”
Redlener stated, “High-risk populations [are] going to have a fatality rate multiple-fold of what people without high risk [will have]. In other words, it’s the elderly, and especially the elderly with pre-existing conditions, but we also plenty of reports now about much younger people, mostly with pre-existing conditions.”
“Every single credible epidemiologist — people who look at data, modeling, and trajectories — say we’re about ten days to two weeks behind Italy, so we get this very weird surreal view of where we are going,” cautioned Redlener.
Redlener continued, “This disease doubles every — somewhere between — three and four days, now, and that’s geometric. That’s horrendous if you think about how quickly that adds up. … We are in the early stages of a crazy hospital crisis, and we’re talking about emergency rooms all over the country literally running out of protective gear. Somebody, a very high official in the United States Department of Health and Human services — a very high official — told me that we need between two and three billion face masks, for example, yet we have a tiny fraction of that.”
American ingenuity and public-private partnerships may relieve the worsening shortage of medical supplies faced by hospitals and other healthcare operations, stated Redlener.
“On the other hand, I must say we have a lot of innovations. small board-type things where we have sewing groups literally around the country that are trying to make — according to a particular design — masks on their own [with] home sewing machines that may be okay. We’re negotiating with clothing manufacturers to see if we can manufacture safe effective masks that could be washed and reused.”
Redlener shared, “My son runs an emergency room here in New York City — and by the way, this is deeply personal, obviously, to me — but he had to tell his staff that when they come in for their shifts that they put on their their boots, their suits, their gowns, their masks, their N95 special masks, and goggles, and they cannot change in between patients, which is what we ideally do, because they will run out in two days as opposed to two weeks, so we’re putting off the inevitable here.”
Redlener and his professional peers are drawing parallels between the coronavirus outbreak and the 1918 Spanish flue.
“We’re going to have problems that really have been unimaginable to contemplate,” Redlener predicted. “Two weeks ago I was talking about comparisons to SARS and the swine flu in 2009, but really we’ve all been whispering among each other in my field saying, ‘Oh my goodness, this is 1918 Spanish flu-level,’ and it is, and it’s happening fast, and we’re not prepared.”
“The thing that’s been frustrating guys to me and many of us has been [that] we saw this coming in early January,” added Redlener. “We knew this was coming. There was no way that was going to be avoided and we really have dragged our feet. … We’re still having problems. I speak to emergency room and doctors literally every day just trying to keep up with things and we’re still taking three or four days to get a test result back. It’s incredibly inefficient and not ready yet.”
Redlener went on,”I’m much more concerned about this new extraordinary crisis that our hospitals are going to be in and the risk to our healthcare workers, and by the way, we’re not just talking about doctors and nurses. You cannot run a hospital without the registrars, the aides, the people who clean the rooms, the dietitians, the respiratory therapists, and so on. When I say healthcare workers, I mean the entire system is essential here.
“So where are we going to get these people? asked Redlener, echoing concerns of a shortage of healthcare professionals during the coronavirus crisis expressed by Maria Ryan, director of a rural hospital near the state line between New Hampshire and Vermont. “Even governors are [proposing] to bring in retired doctors and nurses. Well, you don’t want to bring those people. They’re older, and they have pre-existing medical conditions. So we’re going to put them in harm’s way in our emergency rooms? That can’t happen.”
“I don’t blame political leaders, because we’re we’re really struggling to find answers, and they are, too,” concluded Redlener. “Republicans, Democrats, this is the most non-partisan crisis we’ve had in memory and they’re all struggling and I give much credit to them for trying to figure out ways to solve this.”
Global demand on globalized supply chains for medical supplies to address a worldwide pandemic will exacerbate shortages of needed goods, estimated Redlener.
“Every hospital, every state, every country in the world is going after the same number of limited vendors of things we need, whether it’s mechanical ventilators or the protective gear,” Redlener remarked.”
Mansour asked if industrial policy driven by the federal government can help alleviate ongoing shortages of medical supplies and medicines.
Redlener replied, “I have a lot of faith in American ingenuity and the ability to ramp up when we have to, and I think World War II is an apt example of where everything turns towards the war effort and very successfully.
“I think we’re capable of it, and I think we should be doing it,” continued Redlener, “Let’s say the people actually make mechanical ventilators, I think I saw a data that they were making like 150 a month, they need to make 5,000 a month, and I think they can do it. If the leadership in those industries takes this advice — this is a whole-country approach — that is exactly what we need, but we’re way behind.”
Breitbart News Tonight broadcasts live on SiriusXM Patriot channel 125 weeknights from 9:00 p.m. to midnight Eastern or 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Pacific.
Follow Robert Kraychik on Twitter.