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My husband has been an emergency physician for 30 years. During that time, I have seen him frustrated because of social problems he can’t solve or depressed from the bureaucracy that medicine has become. I have watched him wander through sleep-deprived days, burnt and crispy from shift work. But I have never seen him truly worried about going to work until the first Covid-19 case was diagnosed in Rhode Island, where we live and work.

Jay has been on the front lines of the Covid-19 pandemic. He has worked multiple shifts since it began. Curiously, neither he nor any of his front-line colleagues who show no symptoms have been tested for Covid-19, even though a team of Japanese researchers recently reported that approximately 30% of people infected with the novel coronavirus show no symptoms of Covid-19. Let that number sink in. It means that many of the patients my husband and other health care workers are in contact with who seem “fine” could be vectors for the coronavirus.


A few days ago, my husband’s hospital group told health care workers that they had to wear a single mask for two days. Later they were told to wear their masks until they get soiled or become unusable. There are shortages of tests, gloves, gowns, synthetic swabs, assay chemicals, and masks.

At a press conference on Tuesday, the director of Rhode Island’s Department of Health, Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, said “We have the supply of personal protective equipment we need for our health care providers right now.”

No, Dr. Scott, you don’t. If the largest hospital system in the state is telling its staff to wear masks until they become soiled or no longer functional, that is not “enough.”


My bet is that Rhode Island isn’t alone in giving health care workers the equipment they need to diagnose and treat their patients — and stay safe while doing so.

How many Covid-19 vectors are walking around feeling fine right now, both in and out of the health care system? We just don’t know because of the testing kit debacle and the extremely narrow criteria to get tested.

The published numbers don’t come close to representing the truth because we’re only testing a tiny fraction of the population. The Wall Street Journal reported that South Korea is testing 20,000 people a day. By comparison, the U.S. took 10 days to reach that number. There are currently over 330 million people living in the U.S. As I write this on March 20, 111,638 have been tested for Covid-19. That is 0.03% of the population.

Administrations at every level have failed our health care responders. Alexander-Scott said on March 18 that she was working very hard to get access to Rhode Island’s “stockpile of personal protective equipment” and that she “believed” they were going to be able to do that. She also said the state has its own reserves of protective equipment. Where is this equipment? Why is it being held in reserve? What bureaucracy is holding it up? Get it to the hospitals. Now.

The Department of Defense said on March 19 that it will release 2,000 ventilators and 5 million N95 masks from military reserves, though only 1 million masks will be available immediately. I don’t understand why, if we’ve had this equipment all along, it hasn’t been utilized. And how long will it take to get these supplies to the people who need them?

President Trump and the Department of Defense would never think of sending a soldier into war without a helmet and a weapon, but they didn’t seem to have a problem sending our first responders into the Covid-19 pandemic without enough personal protective equipment.

It’s good that the administration finally believes this pandemic is real, but its promises, prayers and “deep appreciation” for our health care providers isn’t enough. Panic doesn’t help in any situation, but a little outrage never hurt.

Jennifer Hushion is a certified financial planner who lives with her son and husband in Cranston, R.I.

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  • Why can’t masks be cleaned and reused? Why aren’t they made of fabric that can be washed and air dried? Also getting tested today does not preclude that same person getting the virus tomorrow so testing everyone is not the answer. Lastly, what is the recommended home treatment for those with mild to moderate cases. No one seems to be offering this information for thousands of cases staying at home in order to prevent the spread and not overwhelm healthcare facilities

  • Somewhere along the line we agreed to have a large percentage of our medical supplies made in India and China.

    Who made that decision? The market demanded it meaning consumers demanded it. But often the concept of National Security overrides the desire to have the higher standard of living. That is what it boils down to.

    Again who made that decision? It certainly was not Donald Trump.

    Who made the decision to allow the CDC to be ineffective. Some years ago they diverted funds meant for CFIDS research. So they have been a corrupt agency for a long time.

    Are we ever prepared? Were we prepared for WWII? Were we prepared for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill? Were we prepared for Katrina? Being prepared is not part of the American culture other than in Utah.

    Who is in charge of stockpiled materials? Are they military materials? Can military materials be safely depleted? Why does Rhode Island not have its own emergency materials? Would they then not be under state control?

    Should a doctor not have his or her own back up supply of protective gear? Where has the concept of self reliance gone? Is an emergency physician a minimum wage worker?

    “It means that many of the patients my husband and other health care workers are in contact with who seem “fine” could be vectors for the coronavirus.”

    That is certainly true and your husband can be infecting others. We all want your husband to be safe. My significant other is a disabled Medical Lab Director. She has a good friend where the hospital is providing them with nothing. That is not because of Washington but IMO the cost cutting at that hospital. Protective gear was available but not purchased. Could that be the case at your husband’s hospital?

    Time to get busy with DYI protective gear.

  • A political diatribe unworthy of publication IMO.

    But there are some valid points.

    Some of the needed gear can still be purchased on the open market so why is that not being done? Is it Trump’s fault or the fault of local hospitals and their employees? Can an employee not order goggles on Amazon? Gloves can be ordered also.

    There is no doubt that we have been slow to react. But is that because of Washington or because of the trend to overly rely on Washington?

    Masks can be made. A wife of a doctor should be making him masks rather than complaining. Be part of the solution not the problem.

    We all appreciate the dedication of healthcare workers and others who are putting themselves at risk but this is not the time to be engaged in politics.

    I am not impressed. Get busy!

  • Madam, the federal government does not manufacture anything, untill the companies that have factories that makes these things catches up there is a shortage. You are casting your dispersions in the wrong direction.

    • Sir, I never claimed the Federal government does, or even should, manufacture PPE. I was questioning why the President, the Department of Defense and our own State has been sitting on stockpiles of this equipment (which is already manufactured) until now.

  • I have extreme respect for doctors who are on the frontline. They are really taking risks. Or at least they think they are. We don’t know. We should test 100 persons randomly selected from the whole population. If we get 60 who test positive we are very close to herd immunity and we could call off all the draconian measures. Probably we are not there yet, but I think we are much closer than most people think

    • Agree with you. The lack of wide scale testing is a huge problem. Dr Hushion should also be tested. Another problem is that healthcare culture discourages calling in sick and many doctors and nurses will work with “minor symptoms”. Not judging. I am a nurse with doctor and PA adult children. The culture is punitive @ calling off. That needs to change.

  • what about raccoons or hawks blood to fight against the cronavirus. its my assumption that it may contain anti virus, as raccoons and hawks are predators of bats (carriers of virus). Just worried and my all prayers for health of world to fight against such epidemic. HE protect us all from such sufferings. (Ameen)

  • The more health care workers unite, the more you’ll feel your not alone. And yes it’s about time “administration finally believes this pandemic is real”, but this factor alone is what has undermined the confidence in the U.S.

    Another source had for every case there are most likely 5 to 10 people in the community with undetected infections. None the less if its 33% or 50%+ or higher, its the reason it’s spreading in the world at times with a rapid rate on top of the patients that needs testing. The more untested cases keep escalating creates the larger exponential gap to be tested each day or that gap can escalate at a rate that won’t get caught up with. There is data on Patient zero and China had a rate at one point it’s only after having clinically diagnosed and lab-confirmed(15k diagnosed on that day) they closed the gap and contained the outstanding cases with draconic quarantine and all using masks that brought it to a hold. Had this not had been done 12k would still have been spreading it and not been quarantined

    • ‘The administration’ was following the advice given to them by the CDC. Whenever you see people blaming the ‘administration’ for following the advice given to him by the CDC.

      The people are the CDC are getting a free pass for the disastrous decisions they made and the bad advice they gave the President.

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