Hello, I am a RN who's worked in NJ and NYC. I wanted to share my insight into what I have seen and experienced these past few weeks and what I predict will happen over the next several weeks and months ahead based on first hand knowledge. I've discussed my concerns with co-workers and they too share the same thoughts.
-The surge is already occurring in NYC, has been the past 2 week. It has now spread into Northern NJ and creeping it's way into Central/Southern NJ and PA.
-Hospitals are already overwhelmed. This is due to 1) Lack of PPE, 2) Lack of ventilators, 3) Short-staffed, 4) Too many COVID patients.
-The Short staffing is due to a multitude of reasons, 1) Nurses and doctors are quitting due to fears of contracting illness, 2) They are retiring early, 3) They are getting sick with COVID, 4) Many hospitals were already short-staffed prior to the pandemic. This just made it much worse.
The status quo is unsustainable. Here in NJ, we are not even at peak levels yet and many hospitals are diverting patients, even with new units and hospitals being built.
This is what I predict will happen based on the events that have occurred and are occurring.
Many doctors and nurses and other front-line healthcare workers will quit in large numbers due to a lack of PPE and fears of contracting illness over the next weeks and months ahead. I know of a couple of nurses who have quit because of this. Make no mistake, this is a highly deadly virus. Much more deadly than the Seasonal Flu. Many patients who are put on ventilators will not come off it. The risk is high! I have taken care of many otherwise healthy patients who are struggling to breath without oxygen support/therapy, and some I've taken care of needed to be intubated and sent to ICU (If they had room). Many of them also are not getting any better based on the patients I've seen and dealt with. Hospitals will become so overwhelmed over the next several weeks, ventilators have run out or soon will, tough decisions will have to be made. Their is a possibility in the future, that healthcare systems will themselves go bankrupt or collapse b/c of the stress being put on them. If you combine this with the economic stress of high unemployment numbers, you can see where things are headed for society as a whole....
Now you may ask, is there a way to avoid disaster? The answer simply is no. Hospitals were ill prepared for a pandemic. Many health care workers are contracting COVID due to a lack of PPE and they will themselves be carriers and spread the virus to non-covid patients. Many health care workers unintentionally will end up spreading it to their family and friends. It will be a constant cycle. Social distancing is simply not enough when you have sick healthcare workers who are being told to go to work, even if their sick, or they won't get paid.
This will last well into the Summer, some models have shown. It's also likely this will become seasonal once it dies down, similar to the flu. Can hospitals withstand this battle for months? No, not without outside help. What about the economy? and unemployment? It will be utter disaster.
In regards to a vaccine, highly unlikely one will be made soon, even if one was made, it will take time for development, clinical trials, and so on. Also, viruses can mutate, a vaccine won't always work.
Some studies have shown this virus causes irreparable damage to the lungs. Many health care workers will ask themselves, especially when we reach peak levels, is this worth the risk? Without enough PPE, w/o proper staffing levels, no more vents, and no vaccine/reliable treatment for COVID-19, the answer for many will be obvious.