Federal officials pleaded with the American public Monday to heed directives to socially distance themselves in an attempt to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus as hospitals warned of low supplies and canceled elective procedures to free up resources.
"In some of those hospitals that are no longer performing elective procedures, we are converting operating rooms to intensive care units so that we are prepared for a further surge in patients," Joanne Roberts, SVP and chief value officer at Providence, told Healthcare Dive in an email.
Roberts said her system has also implemented conservation measures for personal protective equipment as supplies get tight.
Shifting to a more emphatic tone after weeks of what many public experts said underplayed the pandemic's risk of spreading to the U.S., President Donald Trump recommended tougher guidelines to blunt the increasing cases — many of which are undetected due to the lack of widespread testing. Officials also advised the public to avoid gathering in groups of more than 10 and forego discretionary travel as well as trips to bars and restaurants.
"We'd much rather be ahead of the curve than beyond it," Trump said Monday during a press conference, while also announcing the start of the first clinical trial for a vaccine.
Trump said he advised governors across the country on a call Monday to buy up ventilators on their own if they could.
The federal task force specifically called upon millennials to do their part to hamper the virus from creeping into new communities.
"They are the core group that will stop this virus. They are the group that communicates successfully, independent of picking up a phone. They intuitively know how to contact each other without being in large social gatherings," said Deborah Birx, the administration's response coordinator for the task force.
Trump seemed to change his tone on the threat the virus poses to the country and larger economy, acknowledging a recession is possible and potential shortage of ventilators and ICU beds for a surge in demand from sick patients.
He also seemed to acknowledge American's fears. "It's bad, it's bad," he said of conversations he's had in explaining the situation to his youngest son. "But we're hopefully going to be a best case, not a worst case."
He also said the virus was not under control and it was possible the situation could last until July or August.
Here is Healthcare Dive's coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak so far.