More than 12,000 people have died with coronavirus in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York, where there are more than 260,000 confirmed cases. Those numbers almost certainly understate the casualties, officials acknowledge, as testing of both the living and the dead remains spotty.
The New York-area doctors have not uncovered any surefire way to fight Covid-19 — the disease caused by the virus — and not enough time has passed to say if their improvisations will hold up, said Dr. Anand Swaminathan, an assistant clinical professor of emergency medicine at St. Joseph’s University Medical Center in Paterson, N.J.
No one knows if any of the spaghetti will stick to the wall.
“I’m confident that we will have a lot of answers in months,” said Dr. Reuben Strayer, an emergency medicine physician at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn. “Unfortunately, that doesn’t help us right now. You have to start somewhere.”
“Never in my life have I had to ask a patient to get off the telephone because it was time to put in a breathing tube,” said Dr. Richard Levitan, who recently spent 10 days at Bellevue Hospital Center in Manhattan.
Why is this so odd? People who need breathing tubes, which connect to mechanical ventilators that assist or take over respiration, are rarely in any shape to be on the phone because the level of oxygen in their blood has declined precipitously.
If conscious, they are often incoherent and are about to be sedated so they do not gag on the tubes. It is a drastic step.
Yet many Covid-19 patients remain alert, even when their oxygen has sharply fallen, for reasons health care workers can only guess. (Another important signal about how sick the patients are from Covid-19 — the presence of inflammatory markers in the blood — is not available to physicians until laboratory work is done.)