in this context, in either pindostan or the UK, unemployment is practically tantamount to a death sentence

Trump coronavirus adviser says 200,000 dead the “best case” outcome
Patrick Martin, WSWS, Mar 31 2020

The coronavirus response coordinator for the Trump White House said Monday that 100,000 to 200,000 Pindo deaths was a “best case” outcome of the pandemic, and that the death toll could rise substantially above that figure, into the millions, unless “we do things almost perfectly.” The comments by Dr Deborah Birx shocked her interviewer, Savannah Guthrie of NBC Today, to the point where she declared that “you kind of take my breath away.” The exchange is worth quoting:

Birx: The worst-case scenario is between 1.6 million and 2.2 million deaths if you do nothing. If we do things together well, almost perfectly, we could get in the range of 100,000 to 200,000 fatalities. We don’t even want to see that.
Guthrie: I know, but you kind of take my breath away with that, when I hear you say that’s sort of the best-case scenario. If everything works and people do the things you’re asking them to do, maybe you can hold the deaths to one to two hundred thousand, in this country.
Birx: The best-case scenario would be 100% of Pindos doing precisely what is required, but we’re not sure, based on the data you’re sharing from around the world and seeing these pictures, that all of Pindostan is responding in a uniform way and protecting one another. So we also have to factor that in.

The pictures referred to were of people on beaches and at church services. The estimate put forward by Dr Birx is a considerably more ominous projection than that advanced in television interviews the day before by Dr Tony Fauci, the top federal infectious disease scientist. Fauci presented the figure of 100,000 to 200,000 deaths as a middle-range outcome that could still be reduced significantly if the correct actions were taken. Birx presented the same number as the lowest possible number, and one likely to be surpassed significantly. The projected minimum death toll of 100,000 to 200,000 people in Pindostan is more than combined Pindo deaths in the imperialist wars of the past 75 years: the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War and the ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is more than the official death toll of 116,500 from WW1 and as Birx indicated, it could quickly approach the official death toll of 405,000 from WW2. In other words, the coronavirus epidemic is a massive historical catastrophe for Pindostan, for major European countries like Italy, Spain and France, and for the world as a whole. The death toll world-wide is now approaching 38,000, with 3,708 new deaths, up 500 from the day before by one calculation. Spain suffered 913 deaths, Italy 812, Pindostan 563 and France 418, meaning that two-thirds of worldwide deaths took place in four countries with supposedly advanced “First World” health-care infrastructures. The Pindo death toll demonstrates the utter failure of every level of the capitalist state in Pindostan, the federal government, the states and the various localities, and of all sections of the ruling elite, including the two major political parties, the military intelligence apparatus and the corporate financial oligarchy. Despite ample warnings over more than a decade of the likelihood of global pandemics, and with the experience of near-misses like SARS, MERS and the H1N1 flu, there was no serious advance preparation by the Pindo bourgeoisie, or any section of the capitalist class around the world.

The response to the statements by Dr Birx has been an attempt to bury her admissions beneath a deluge of “happy talk” about likely breakthroughs in testing, therapeutic treatments and vaccines, in which the White House has been aided by a servile and compliant media. At the White House press briefing late Monday afternoon, there was a clear effort to change the “optics” of the event, as Trump and Pence walked out alone, separated by six feet, without the usual backdrop of aides and experts. Pence sat down as Trump took the microphone alone, to announce that more than one million people had been tested in Pindostan. Trump said nothing about the rise in the number of positive tests to more than 160,000, or the 20,000 new cases, or the nearly 600 deaths in Pindostan, by far the worst day for mass casualties since 9/11. The cumulative death toll from the coronavirus in Pindostan has now surpassed the nearly 3,000 deaths on that day, but instead of taking note of this grim milestone and proposing any serious measures to mobilize the vast resources of the Pindo economy and working population against the pandemic, Trump staged a series of childish photo-ops, first calling on several of his own health boxtops to give servile statements thanking him for his leadership, then inviting a group of corporate CEOs to take bows and pledge the assistance of their companies for the fight against the coronavirus. One business executive had the gall to draw the conclusion from the ongoing tragedy that the Pindo creeple needed to “turn back to God.” Trump blocked any questions about the statement by Dr Birx on NBC Today, instead declaring that a death toll of 100,000 to 200,000 in Pindostan would represent “a good job” by his administration. For all practical purposes, he was declaring it the policy of the White House to inflict such a death toll on the Pindo population, and likely a much higher one.

The response of the Demagog Party and its media allies to the statements made by Dr Fauci on Sunday and Dr Birx on Monday has been virtually total silence. Presumptive presidential contender Joseph Biden called on Trump to stop squabbling with Demagog governors in Michigan, Washington and other states, and to base federal policy on the advice of Fauci and other experts. He told MSNBC Monday afternoon:

They should let Dr Fauci and the experts run the show, speak more. Let them lay out exactly what’s happening.

But he said nothing about the massive death toll estimated by Fauci and Birx, nor did he suggest that anything could be done to prevent it. Similarly, the NYT published a lengthy editorial under the headline, “How Pindostan Can Reopen” which made no mention of the historic levels of casualties projected by the Trump administration, or how to forestall such a catastrophe. Instead, the editorial chided the White House for rushing to reopen the Pindo economy before adequate preparations could be made, and echoing New York Governor Andrew Cuomo by suggesting that Pindo workers should be systematically tested, so that those who are not infected by the coronavirus can be sent back to work at once. The main concern of all sections of the Pindo ruling elite is to reestablish the process of extracting profits from the labor of tens of millions of Pindo workers, regardless of the impact on their health. Meanwhile, the dimensions of the economic crisis triggered by the pandemic were underscored by an estimate by the St Louis branch of the Federal Reserve, that 47 million workers could lose their jobs and the unemployment rate could rise to 32.1% in the coming months.

The profit system is sabotaging the struggle against the coronavirus
Patrick Martin, WSWS, Mar 31 2020

The profit drive of big Pindo corporations is a major factor in impeding the efforts of doctors, nurses and other health-care workers in the struggle against the coronavirus. This is the reality of Pindo capitalism, as opposed to Trump’s hosannas about how “great companies” are playing an “incredible” role in this crisis. The NYT detailed Sunday how financial operations in the medical equipment market blocked an initiative by the CDC to build a stockpile of ventilators, which are now in short supply throughout Pindostan. The CDC initiative, which began in 2007 in response to the SARS epidemic and continued for seven years, was aimed at addressing a shortage of the ventilators that would be needed in the event of a runaway influenza-type virus, similar to this year’s coronavirus. the Times reported:

The plan was to build a large fleet of inexpensive portable devices to deploy in a flu pandemic or another crisis.

The devices would not only be cheaper, but simpler to operate, thus requiring less training for the workers, usually respiratory therapists, responsible for their use. In the current COVID-19 crisis, the lack of staff is at least as important as the scarcity of ventilators. The CDC selected a small California company to design the new machines, which would cost only $3k apiece, much below the price of $10k for the bulky machines then in use in hospitals throughout the country. Newport Medical Instruments, a subsidiary of a Japanese firm, won the bid for the federal contract and delivered three prototypes of the new device in 2011. CDC officials were enthusiastic, and told Congress that the device would be on the market by Sep 2013. But then a much larger Pindo medical device manufacturer named Covidien acquired Newport Medical Instruments as part of an effort to buy up smaller competitors and prevent them from cutting into Covidien’s profits. In particular, Covidien already manufactured and marketed a much more expensive ventilator that would be undercut by the Newport effort. According to the NYT:

Government officials and executives at rival ventilator companies said they suspected that Covidien had acquired Newport to prevent it from building a cheaper product that would undermine Covidien’s profits from its existing ventilator business.

After Covidien, valued at $12b, swallowed up Newport Medical for $100mn, its executives asked the CDC in 2014 to allow it to withdraw from the contract for the proposed low-cost ventilator on the grounds that it was not sufficiently profitable. The Obama administration agreed to the request. CDC started over, with a new contract to a new company, the giant Dutch multinational Philips. Covidien was itself acquired a year later by Medtronic for $50b. Executives of the giant merged firm told the NYT they knew nothing about the low-cost ventilator project. The NYT report concluded:

That failure delayed the development of an affordable ventilator by at least half a decade, depriving hospitals, states and the federal government of the ability to stock up. The federal government started over with another company in 2014, whose ventilator was approved only last year and whose products have not yet been delivered.

There are similar factors behind the shortage of N95 masks, now felt by medical workers at hospitals throughout the country. One of the largest manufacturers of N95 masks in Pindostan is 3M Corporation, the giant Minneapolis-based conglomerate perhaps best known as the maker of Post-Its and Scotch tape. There has been mounting criticism of 3M and other providers of N95 masks for withholding supplies of materials and finished masks from the market, and for permitting price-gouging by their distributors. 3M in particular has been attacked for its policy of delivering all its supplies through commercial distributors, rather than sending them directly to health-care facilities or state agencies seeking to purchase large quantities of the masks, which are used by the millions each day of the coronavirus pandemic. Last week, the company announced stepped-up production of N95 masks and was featured in a flattering cover story in Bloomberg Businessweek, headlined “How 3M Plans to Make More Than a Billion Masks By End of Year,” which hailed the company for “a remarkably large contribution” to the fight against coronavirus. Sports and media billionaire Mark Cuban, an occasional critic of the Trump administration, denounced 3M by name. Citing reports of price-gouging, he told Bloomberg News:

I’m excited that 3M has increased capacity, but supply hasn’t been matched with demand. Why is 3M not telling distributors, pick up the phone, sell your inventory to the hospitals, or we’ll never let you buy more product? These distributors are making as much money as they possibly can! It’s wrong! It’s criminal!

Trump was asked Saturday about Cuban’s remarks and defended 3M, claiming one of his own billionaire cronies had vouched for the company, CEO Ken Langone of Home Depot. Trump told reporters as he left the White House for a photo-op in Norfolk, Virginia:

I just spoke to Ken Langone. I think he’s on the board of 3M. He called up and he said what a great job they’ve done. From everybody said, I think 3M have done an incredible job!

Another attack on profiteering at the expense of N95 production came from an unlikely source, a fervently right-wing former Army helicopter pilot named Tyler Merritt, whose apparel company based in Savannah, Georgia, specializes in marketing t-shirts to Trump supporters with provocative slogans, attacking NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, upholding gun rights and other flag-waving motifs. Merritt took to the airwaves, first on Fox News and then Sunday on MSNBC, declaring that several major corporations are blocking efforts to convert factories like his to producing surgical masks, N95 masks and other needed supplies. Holding up a piece of the fabric that is cut and molded to make N95 respirators, Merritt told MSNBC:

This material is being hoarded by certain companies. It is being traded as a commodity. It used to cost $6k a ton, now it’s costing upwards of $600k a ton. It’s despicable what some companies are doing.

Merritt did not name any names, and his MSNBC interviewer, working for a network owned by Comcast Corporation, did not seek to identify exactly which corporate criminals he was referring to. But there is no doubt of the truth of what Merritt was charging. Giant corporations and various middlemen are raking in profits while endangering the lives of millions in the face of the coronavirus threat. Two other critical components needed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, mass testing and the development of a vaccine, have also been constrained by the profit motive and the division of the world into competing nation states. Plans to develop a coronavirus vaccine following the 2002 SARS epidemic foundered when no companies invested in the research. Had such a vaccine been developed, it could have been tested during the initial outbreak in Wuhan to see whether it could prevent COVID-19. The incredibly long delays in mass testing in Pindostan and many countries have been a combined product of governmental mismanagement and the subordination of this vital social need to the profit interests of the pharmaceutical giants.

Tennessee state officials recommend health care workers use swim goggles, diapers and garbage bags as protection from COVID-19
Warren Duzak, WSWS, Mar 31 2020

The Tennessee Dept of Health is recommending the use of swim goggles, diapers, plastic garbage bags and even plastic grocery bags as a protective barrier for doctors and health-care workers battling the spread of the COVID-19 virus when they run out of personal protective equipment. As of Monday, the state had reported 1,818 infections and ten deaths, with a shortfall of ICUs needed to treat the critically ill expected in the next two weeks. When health-care workers find themselves without the necessary protective gowns, state boxtops have suggested the use of contractor trash bags, a heavier style of trash bags used for debris. In the absence of standard rubber gloves and proper eye protection, ubiquitous plastic grocery bags and swim goggles are recommended. Nashville CBS affiliate News Channel 5 reported last week that a Tennessee Health Dept webinar for health-care professionals included a slide which suggested that as a means of conserving PPE, surgical masks could be replaced with “bandanas, diapers and even layers of tissue and gauze.” Nevertheless, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee “insisted” to News Channel 5’s reporters that the supply of protective clothing and equipment in the state was sufficient. Lee’s patently false statement mirrors statements by NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has claimed that the city had enough PPE for hospital staff for another week, even though health-care workers are already reporting shortages. NYC is currently the nation’s epicenter for the COVID-19 outbreak, with 66,500 cases and 1,200 deaths as of Monday. Nashville physician Dr Sonal Gupta told Channel 5 after hearing of Lee’s comments:

That was when I was like, I’m out. If these are the suggestions and we don’t have a supply-chain contact in the works and stuff coming down the pipeline to us, then all I am going to do potentially is be a spreader of disease. Part of it is hard, because we want to do right by the patients, but we also want to do right by ourselves.

Dr Gupta said that from now on she would practice remote tele-medicine. Until issuing a belated shelter-in-place order on Monday, Lee had refused to issue a state-wide stay-at-home order, a measure which the WHO has insisted is critical to slowing the spread of the coronavirus. Lee told the press last week:

We’re not issuing orders, we’re issuing guidance and strong suggestions. We don’t have to mandate… I want to encourage you to pray. I want you to pray for your citizens that are affected by economic downturns, by the sickness sweeping through the state.

In response to Lee’s mindless actions, more than 2,000 physicians signed on to a petitioning effort to get Lee to institute a “shelter-in-place” order to aid in the effort to stop the spread of coronavirus in the state. As of Monday, there were more than 28,000 signatures on the petition, initiated by Dr Jennifer Martin, a physician at Vanderbilt University Hospital in Nashville. The petition states:

The COVID-19 virus is spreading exponentially, and the lives of Tennesseans are at risk. Our only chance to flatten the curve and save lives is to physically distance from each other.

The petition calls upon Lee to close unnecessary businesses and order non-essential workers to shelter in place. The Tennessee Medical Association quickly urged its members to sign the petition. Early last week, Lee discounted reports that health-care workers were resorting to makeshift PPE, telling reporters:

You know, you hear about a lot of makeshift things happening, but there’s no makeshift stuff happening in our state yet.

Putting to rest any thought of “he said, she said” journalism, the station reported the following:

In fact, News Channel 5 obtained pictures showing how health professionals in Tennessee are already using makeshift equipment to protect themselves in order to conserve the good supplies for an expected wave of coronavirus cases.

Born to wealth and privilege on a 1,000-acre horse farm in Williamson County, the richest county in Tennessee, Lee was handed a successful family business built by his father and uncle. Groomed for inherited success, Lee attended many of the state’s best schools and universities. He is a supporter of Donald Trump, charter schools, vouchers and capital punishment, but he wears his religion on his sleeve and makes much of his piety. A former member of a prison ministry quaintly named “Men of Valor,” Lee has claimed an understanding and empathy for people who end up in prison. He recently told an audience:

The trauma the vast majority of them endured as children led me to believe that I would be in prison too, if that had happened to me.

Despite his professed understanding and concern for the incarcerated, in February Lee turned down the clemency plea of Nicholas Todd Sutton, 58, the last hope of an inmate who by all accounts from inmates and guards was a changed man after spending his entire adult life in prison. The WSWS reported last month:

With the final go-ahead, the executioner sent two cycles of 1,750 volts of electricity coursing through Sutton’s body.

NYC paramedic speaks out about dire conditions amid the COVID-19 pandemic
Clara Weiss, WSWS, Mar 31 2020

The WSWS spoke to a NYC paramedic about the unfolding disaster in the city’s health-care system over the COVID-19 pandemic. NYCis now the center of the pandemic. As of Monday night, 1,342 people have died and 67, 325 have tested positive. Over 36,000 of the infected are in NYC. The interview has been edited for length and clarity. If you are a medical worker and want to speak out about your own experience with the COVID-19 crisis, please contact us today. Below, Dr Colleen Smith’s EMS video.

Q: Can you describe the situation that you and your colleagues are facing now as paramedics in NYC?

A: I’m mainly based out of Manhattan, but I also work in the Bronx. Some hospitals in Manhattan have not been seeing that many patients that we’re seeing at Maimonides or Elmhurst Hospital. All the public city hospitals are getting swamped. They are running out of PPE kits. Last week, there was a picture showing nurses in trash bags at Mount Sinai West. Dr Colleen Smith at Elmhurst Hospital was videotaping the situation in the Emergency Room (above). Now, she is facing disciplinary action. She might even get fired next week. At least, that’s what I’ve heard from colleagues. As hospital workers, we’re not even allowed to go on video with social media. If you do, you will probably never find a job in health-care again. All the hospitals were caught with their pants down in this public health crisis. At the start, comparing ourselves to China, we thought we were prepared, but we were definitely wrong. In EMS, we dropped the ball years ago. We’ve been running down ambulances from the fire department side. Forty ambulances are out of service, because we don’t have crews to stock them. 20% of our personnel have been cut, according to reports by the FDNY. The FDNY officially employs 4,500 people. A lot of trucks are out of service. We have even less ambulances now than we did in 2001. FDNY reports that 20% are out of service now, because they are either in quarantine due to positive exposure without symptoms or are positive COVID-19. We believe an additional 20% who went unreported are asymptomatic or are using their sick time to ride this crisis out. There have been reports that this city is going to lose 50% of our workforce by the end of April, because we’re told to go to work when we don’t have symptoms. As long as you’re asymptomatic you have to work even if you have tested positive. That is a city guideline. You only get seven days if you have serious symptoms like fever, and just three days if you get better. You won’t get paid past seven days and that’s not hazard pay, that’s from your sick time. A lot of my partners have tested positive. I know many nurses and doctors have tested positive too. At my hospital, a nurse the other day had a fever, a cough and a little bit of trouble breathing. She went to her manager and was told:

I don’t have nurses to give up. You have to toughen it out.

It was a 12-hour shift. In EMS, in a 24-hour period, we have been hitting 7,111 calls; that was Thursday. Today, when I walked off it was already about 5,000 calls, but the night shift was just about to start. One of my colleagues who used to have one cardiac arrest in his tour of eight hours is now doing 3-4 cardiac arrests every shift. It is bad. I passed Bellevue Hospital this morning, and I saw eight refrigerators between Bellevue and NYU. And we haven’t even seen the surge yet. The situation is worst in Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx. In order to backfill the boroughs, they are sending Manhattan units to the Bronx or Brooklyn. There’s a big problem with this. The neighborhood which that EMS unit used to serve no longer has a unit so, say someone has a cardiac arrest there now, another unit in a different location has to serve. You’re adding 5 minutes, 10 minutes or 20 minutes, if not more, depending on the traffic. My ETA to a cardiac arrest the other day was 18 minutes. Today in the Bronx, it took us almost five hours to get to this person who had chest pain and difficulty breathing. In fact, it was a husband and wife who both had tested positive. They had been home for seven days; they were in very bad condition. In such a situation, all you can do is apologize for being late. They just issued a new policy today, lowering the standards for the 911 ambulance units. Instead of two paramedics for a 911 ambulance, you now only should have one paramedic and one EMT. And one EMT can go with one firefighter. That’s even scarier. This new policy will mean that the quality of care is being seriously reduced. We haven’t gone without double paramedic stock ambulances since FDNY took over EMS in 1996. The reason NYC used to be so strict about this guideline is that we are using medication that can be very lethal. If one paramedic gives the wrong dose for a cardiac arrest, this person is certainly not going to come back. The same goes for treating people with various cardiac or respiratory problems. The doses we have to give are very intricate and we can overdose someone very easily with the narcotics we carry. Politicians are definitely playing the game. No-one wants to admit that they have a problem of this magnitude in their city. If we as a city are not serving people, that points to a dire problem and a system that has failed. The easiest thing becomes for them to deny the problem that exists.

Q: Politicians from Cuomo to de Blasio and Trump have declared that there is in fact enough Personal Protective Equipment for health-care workers. Trump has also questioned that NYC needs 30,000-40,000 ventilators to cope with the crisis. What is your response to this?

A: We don’t have the PPE or equipment to adequately deal with COVID-19 patients. I’ve been using my personal N95 for four weeks, and I could not have gotten a new one without a friend. It’s a completely soiled mask, probably infected at this point. Our vehicles are not being checked. We don’t have PPE kits. I haven’t seen a Dept of Health inspector in weeks. They don’t inspect our trucks because we will not pass the department’s check-list. A big problem for us is that they’re changing the policies every other day. We were told last week to wear N95 masks, today we were told that surgical masks are enough. We have EMS workers who go to jobs without any PPE at all. Some units refuse to go to work before they get PPE. One doctor suggested that we bleach our N95 and that’s actually happening now at Maimonides Hospital. The PPE is locked up by hospital management and good luck getting 100 providers in a hospital with 100% of protection. There is incredible price gouging going on. I went to a private provider the other day: they’re selling N95s for $6 a piece. Some even charge $8. To produce it costs just 30 cents. A fully equipped viral kit costs $15. My hospital runs through close to one hundred PPE kits in about 3-4 hours. You have to calculate that for 24/7, and that’s not even counting surges at peak time in a hospital. In addition, many companies won’t take orders from hospitals of less than half a million units. So not only are you buying at an extremely high price, but you also have to place a large order or they’re not giving you anything. We also don’t get firefighters anymore to help with a Fever-Cough. The FDNY has removed 90% of medical calls for FDNY. Now they only go to cardiac arrest, choke or drowning if the 911 text does not indicate Fever-Cough. They fear that the virus spreads further. If one firefighter gets infected, the whole station will be infected. In the past, in 85% of cases they would be there before we would come. It takes 3-5 minutes for us as paramedics to fully put on our gowns and PPE, if we have it, and then get into the building. In a cardiac arrest, brain death occurs at four minutes without resuscitative efforts. This is why the firefighters were so essential to a cardiac arrest. They would start compressions or shock them right away. We’re holding cardiac arrests now because we have no ambulances available to send. In the Bronx yesterday, they told us if an EMT goes to a cardiac arrest, they have no paramedics for that cardiac arrest. EMT are supposed to pick up that cardiac arrest and have to go to the hospital to pronounce them dead. That happens multiple times a day, in the Bronx, in Brooklyn, in Queens. We’ve been pronouncing people dead in their own homes because we simply cannot come in time. We’ve been pronouncing people a lot.

The other day we brought a cardiac arrest to the hospital. She was a 32-year-old female, otherwise healthy, had no medical problems. We spent 40 minutes on her to get her heart starting, but we lost pulses once we got to the ER. The whole ER team looked at her and how much time we had spent on her and said: you’ve been trying for 40 minutes, we have to pronounce her, we don’t have ventilators. You need to stop trying to save her life, because we don’t have a ventilator right now. We are told, especially if the patient is confirmed COVID, you can do your best at home, but don’t bring them to the hospital, we don’t have the ventilators or the staff to deal with it. That is literally what the doctor said. The private hospital I also work for adopted the same policy. We’re not doing compressions or bag valve mask or intubations anymore when they have a cardiac arrest. A nurse manager told me that this is a new policy to avoid infection of the medical staff, because they don’t know which patients with cardiac arrest have been infected. We’re not even ventilating patients that are in cardiac arrest anymore. Instead, the policy is that we’re putting a nasal cannula, basically blasting them on oxygen with 25 liters of oxygen per minute. This means essentially that we’re not breathing for you anymore. It is passive oxygenation; the patient must take breaths on their own. We’ve been using nasal cannula in the past as well but in a different way. We would not stop compressions, we would have them be done by a firefighter, and the paramedic at the same time would intubate the patient. However, even the best medical professional takes about 10-20 seconds to intubate a patient, so in this interim period, we would do the nasal cannula. Is the treatment now adequate? It’s the best we got. It is going to better someone’s oxygenation temporarily, yes, but once you stop the patient is going to crash. It is a serious ethical question. The same goes for the sharing of ventilators which we are now doing. The ventilators are supportive care, they’re not a cure. It means that we’re giving your lungs some rest, so that you can fight the virus. There’s definitely harm to hooking up someone who has a 20% lung damage with relatively mild pneumonia together with someone who has 80% lung damage with severe pneumonia. The question is how harmful is too harmful. A few weeks ago we were talking about Italy, here doctors have had to choose who lives and who dies. That’s literally what we do in NYC now. A lot of people don’t get a ventilator when they come to a hospital, no matter how young they are. People don’t understand that to be a COVID patient with cardiac arrest in a hospital is a death sentence.

Q: What are the main concerns of paramedics? What do you think has to be done to protect health care workers and first responders?

A: I know for a fact that we are all scared. We go into people’s homes. We touch what they touch. We’re going to their homes with gloves, goggles, and maybe an N95 from a few weeks ago. My partners don’t have an N95, so we ask them to wait in the truck, since we have only one kit of PPE. We’re trying to protect them and ask them to only drive. One of the easiest and readily available things we could do is test first responders. One of the easiest ways for the virus to spread is for first responders to be sick. But they’re refusing to test us even when we’re symptomatic. We’re not getting tested, the doctors are not getting tested, nurses are working on their shifts for 12 hours and are told to tough it out. I’m not worried about myself, but I worry about my patients that are sick. You can still spread the virus even if you’re asymptomatic. They are reserving testing for the sickest patients, and quite frankly they don’t want to know that we tested positive. The city can just not afford asymptomatic workers to be put out. It’s too expensive and we have no damn staff. We are underpaid, we’re underequipped, and we’re the front line of the city’s crisis right now. We particularly need N95s, and at least one N95 issued per shift. The standards by the CDC and NY state was one N95 per patient. Reusing PPE is completely out of the question. That’s the baseline of our practice. If we had more PPE in the hospital or EMS, we would not be so damn afraid to show up to these calls. We are scared of infecting our families. I have elderly parents and a child at home so I’m staying elsewhere now. I called the Four Seasons Hotel; they were nice enough to put up the ad. But they told me there is no room. Most of us are young in EMS. Many in EMS have underlying medical conditions like asthma. One of them is now in critical condition, even though she just had mild asthma. I’m a cancer survivor. Do you think I want to be on the street with confirmed cases? No, but people need help, and this is not the time for me to back out. I’m being told to not work; my chances of getting out of the hospital if I had the diagnosis are 10%. But I’ve made my peace with it. People need help and I’m not just going to abandon these people.

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