Mar 20, 2020 - Health

The U.S. health care system is short staffed

Data: OECD GDP, OECD doctors,  The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Despite being the world's largest economy and having a private health care system that politicians routinely call "the best in the world," the U.S. lags badly among industrialized countries in terms of the number of doctors.

The state of play: The U.S. is 25th in the number of doctors among OECD countries and has the third-lowest number of doctors among countries that have 1,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

The big picture: The number of doctors will be key in fighting the health crisis that must be quelled before the American economy can get back on its feet. As will the number of hospital beds — another area where the U.S. comes up short.

What they're saying: "Every corner of the U.S. is at risk for a severe shortage of hospital beds as the coronavirus outbreak worsens, according to new simulations from Harvard, mapped out by ProPublica and the New York Times," Axios' Bob Herman writes.

  • "Total nationwide capacity for health care supplies doesn't always matter, because hospitals in one area can help out neighboring systems when they're overwhelmed by a crisis. But these projections indicate that won't be an option with the coronavirus — everybody will be hurting at the same time."

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Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Recorded deaths from the novel coronavirus surpassed 9,600 in the U.S. Sunday night, per Johns Hopkins data. The death toll in the U.S. has risen over 1,000 every day since April 1.

Why it matters: U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said on Sunday this upcoming week will be "the hardest and saddest week of most Americans' lives" — calling it our "our Pearl Harbor, our 9/11 moment."

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What's happening: Some doctors, especially in areas that haven't seen large numbers of cases yet, are encouraging women to induce their labor. That can help keep mothers and babies out of the hospital later, when the risk of a coronavirus infection will be higher, and also helps free up beds that may be needed for COVID-19 patients.

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Cuomo says New York is "literally going day-to-day with our supplies"

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a press conference on Sunday that New York is struggling to maintain medical supplies while combatting the novel coronavirus — operating "literally" on a "day-to-day" basis.

Why it matters: New York City has become an epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, facing mass quarantines and stay-at-home orders. Cuomo said Saturday that New York reported 630 new deaths in 24 hours — an "all-time increase" that beat the previous day's record of 562 deaths.