Mar 15, 2020 - Health

Ex-FDA chief: "Wuhan-style outbreak" in NYC would overwhelm the system

Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb warned on CBS News' "Face the Nation" Sunday that if the coronavirus outbreak in New York City reaches the level it did in Wuhan, China, it would "overwhelm" the health care system.

Why it matters: New York State currently has the most reported coronavirus cases in the country. Gottlieb said he is concerned that the U.S. could have many "Wuhan-style" outbreaks because Americans are "more mobile," making it more difficult to confine the virus to one metropolitan area like China was able to.

What he's saying:

"Remember, Wuhan was the size of New York City. At the peak of that epidemic, they hospitalized about 20,000 people. 10,000 were in serious or critical condition. 2,000 were intubated. To give you a basis of comparison, New York state — the entire state — has 50,000 hospital beds and about 3,000 critical-care beds. And about 20,000 of those beds are in New York City.
If we have a Wuhan-style outbreak in New York City, that's going to overwhelm the system. So they need to be building surge capacity right now in anticipation of that possibility."

The big picture: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo wrote in a New York Times opinion piece that "data from other countries shows us clearly where we are headed."

  • "State and local governments alone simply do not have the capacity or resources to do what is necessary," Cuomo wrote.
  • Cuomo called on the Trump administration to allow states to take over testing efforts, to craft federal standards for when cities and states should shut down commerce and schools, and to task the Army Corps of Engineers to build temporary medical centers in high-risk states and cities.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said on CNN Sunday that he expects the number of cases in the city to reach more than 1,000 in the coming days. When asked if he is considering putting in place a lockdown in the city or having restaurants and bars shut down, he said:

  • “Every option is on the table in a crisis. We’ve never seen anything like this."

Go deeper: Fauci on coronavirus: "We'll be thankful that we're overreacting"

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