BOSTON (CBS) – With new COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts surpassing 5,000 for two straight days, healthcare professionals are growing increasingly worried about the strain on the system.
“I think concerned is an understatement,” Dr. Mark Siedner, an infectious disease expert at Mass General Hospital told WBZ.
With hospitalizations approaching 1,400, Siedner said we’re not near where we were last Spring, but he’s concerned about the rate at which hospitalizations are increasing. “It’s only a matter of time if this trend continues,” Siedner said. “I think we’re at the point where we need to start pleading with people. You know, there is a breaking point here. We can’t continue on like this. There’s a maximum number of hospital beds, there’s a maximum number of ICU beds.”
So far, the state of Massachusetts has set up one field hospital at the DCU Center in Worcester. A second field hospital — both are specifically for COVID-19 patients — will be set up in Lowell soon.
The goal is to be able to continue to care for all health issues, including emergencies, like heart attacks, traumas, etc. The more strain COVID-19 puts on the hospital system, the more difficult that becomes. “I think it’s really important the public knows the healthcare system has a limit,” Siedner said.
Another challenge, Siedner said, is the limited resources made available to the state from the federal government. “This kind of infrastructure that costs billions of dollars for testing, tracing, has not been available to them,” he said.
The state’s Stop the Spread campaign, which incudes free testing sites in 18 communities, is a good thing, he explained. “They’ve done the best they can with the resources available to them… but let’s face it, in a perfect world we would get tested every time we walked into a grocery store or stepped on an airplane,” he said.
For now, as we watch case numbers and hospitalizations rise in Massachusetts, it’s mostly about personal responsibility, Siedner and all local health experts have said: wearing masks, social distancing, and staying home.
So far, Governor Baker has said he does not want to shut down any more businesses like the state did in March. However, if numbers continue to climb, Dr. Siedner, who does not impact policy decisions at the state level, told WBZ a stricter shutdown might be a good move. “We’d much prefer to say, ‘Let’s put this in our own hands; let’s take responsibility.’ But frankly if it doesn’t work there is a point where I hope the Governor returns to those measures, because lives are going to be in danger,” Siedner said.