State health systems strained as coronavirus outbreak spreads

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Gretchen Whitmer, Michigan governor.

Bill Pugliano | Getty Images

The governors of Louisiana and Michigan, two emerging hot spots for the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S., warned their state health systems are straining amid a surge in patients and looming shortages of medical supplies.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said her state’s numbers are “climbing exponentially.” —

“We have hospitals that are already at capacity,” she said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet The Press.” “We’re running out of [personal protective equipment] as well.”

The U.S. has the world’s largest number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus, which emerged late last year in China and has infected more than 125,000 Americans, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Michigan has more than 4,600 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 112 people have died. The state’s total number of confirmed infections is the fourth highest in the U.S., only behind the main epicenters of New York, New Jersey and California. 

New Orleans has become the epicenter of Louisiana’s outbreak, according to Governor John Bel Edwards, who said there are positive coronavirus cases in 56 of Louisiana’s 64 parishes, the equivalent of a state county.

Louisiana’s largest city will run out of ventilators by April 4 and hospital beds by April 10 according to the current trajectory of the virus, the governor said Sunday

“Ventilators are the short-term, really big pressing issue we’re trying to solve for,” he said. “Really difficult because every state is looking for these. There are only so many to be had.”

Bel Edwards urged Louisianans to stay home so the state can slow the spread of the virus and save lives. The state has more than 3,300 confirmed coronavirus cases and 137 have died, according to Johns Hopkins.

“This is a challenging public health emergency,” Bel Edwards said Sunday on “Meet The Press.”

Michigan received a shipment of 112,095 masks yesterday from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to Whitmer.

While expressing gratitude for the supplies, she also said the state will “be in dire straits again in a matter of days.”

States have been forced to bid against each other for equipment, which has created confusion and concern, Whitmer said. 

Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington state, which has been dealing with the U.S. coronavirus outbreak longest, said there is “desperate need” for testing kits and testing materials like swabs, calling for mass mobilization of production.

“We just do not have those simple things, that’s why we have to mobilize the entire manufacturing base of the United States like we did in World War II,” Inslee told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.”

The governors’ comments come as President Trump on Friday ordered automaker General Motors to make ventilators under the Defense Production Act, a Korean War-era statute that can force certain American companies to produce materials in short supply in times of crisis.

The president’s directive came after weeks of debating the issue, and as reports have emerged of extreme shortages that have pushed health-care workers to create makeshift equipment like masks and safety goggles.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi criticized the president’s early handling of the COVID-19 crisis on Sunday, calling it “deadly” and warning the administration’s current delays in testing are costing lives.

“As the president fiddles, people are dying,” Pelosi told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.”

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