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Much Lacking in Virus Fight

Wed, 04/01/2020 - 23:50
Opinion

It cannot be stressed often enough that maintaining quarantine conditions is critical now that Suffolk's COVID-19 cases have grown to nearly three times the available hospital beds in the county.

Thus far, only about a 10th of the 6,700 confirmed instances of the virus have required a hospital stay. However, a truly frightening figure released this week was that the number of patients in intensive care units surged massively overnight from Monday to Tuesday.

According to the Department of Health Services, the county as a whole had about 300 intensive care beds in all -- and coronavirus patients occupied 229 of those beds as of Tuesday. To put this in sharper relief, the I.C.U. number jumped by 48 from the previous day.

If the trend continues as expected, Suffolk could be out of intensive care beds by the time you read this. The county's medical system is about to be overwhelmed.     

One measure of the coronavirus pandemic used around the world is the number of cases per 1,000 people. For Suffolk County, this key index reached 4.8 cases per thousand on Tuesday. This is more than the virus's European epicenter, in the Lombardy region in Italy, and more than its place of origin, the city of Wuhan, China.     

While Wuhan is a busy city of 11 million people, Lombardy has about half the population density of Suffolk. For a comparison within the United States, New Orleans, an urban area with roughly the same population as Suffolk, had nowhere near the same rate of cases per thousand, and health officials are alarmed. This cannot be understood any other way than as very bad news for Long Island.     

The East End is faring somewhat better than the rest of the county, however. As of Tuesday, there were just over 2.5 cases per thousand here. Also significant, the speed with which the number of cases was growing was significantly less than in the county as a whole. This could be explained in part by greater access to COVID-19 tests in the western portion of the county, which would boost the figure there. Also, homes are more spread out here, and there are far fewer commuters who might more rapidly have been bringing the virus home.     

There has been nearly universal agreement that closing nonessential businesses and worksites and urging people to remain at home is at this point the only way to moderate the virus's rapid rise. Suffolk is no different from every other population center in that hospitals will not have room for everyone as the expected peak arrives in a week or two. Unfortunately, for the most serious cases for which life-support care is necessary, that day already may have arrived.     

Do your part: Stay home.


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