WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Washington, D.C. needs an estimated 3,600 hospital beds within the next two weeks as it braces for a coronavirus outbreak, the mayor wrote in a letter to hospitals in the U.S. capital.
FILE PHOTO: Chef Jose Andres offers a pair of masks to a reporter as he prepares with members of his World Central Kitchen team to load meals to deliver to people in need during the coronavirus outbreak in downtown Washington, U.S. March 31, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
The federal district is asking hospitals to consider repurposing unused clinical spaces, cafeterias and meeting rooms and reopening medical office buildings and medical towers to create room for more hospital beds, Mayor Muriel Bowser wrote.
The estimated peak for cases in the city is April 15, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
New York is at the center of the pandemic in the United States, struggling to treat or bury casualties and the state’s governor has grimly predicted that the rest of the country would soon face the same misery.
Washington, D.C. has about 700,000 permanent residents, but just one delegate in Congress, instead of two senators, lawmakers and a governor as the states do. Bowser is the district’s top official.
It is planning to reopen closed healthcare facilities, repurpose “commercial, residential and educational facilities” and build temporary centers, according to the April 1 letter.
“We are working aggressively with local and federal partners to meet the deadline of making the first 1,000 of the additional 3,600 estimated medical surge beds in the District available to meet your medical surge needs by April 15,” the letter said.
Of the more than 230,000 people who have tested positive for coronavirus in the United States, 653 are in the capital; 12 people in the district have died.
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The district has fewer hospital beds per capita than many other U.S. cities, including New York, Seattle, and Los Angeles, according to analysis by Medbelle, a healthcare technology firm.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has been slow to respond to the coronavirus’s spread when compared to some other governments, including South Korea.
Washington, D.C., which is home to the White House, is also short of requested medical supplies, according to documents released by the U.S. House of Representatives Oversight Committee. They show that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has provided only a fraction of the supplies requested by multiple states.
Washington, D.C. received 5,520 of the 1.1 million N95 respirators it had requested and 13,500 of the 814,600 surgical masks it had sought from the strategic national stockpile, according to the documents.
Of the thousands of coveralls, bottles of hand sanitizer, safety goggles and face shields, test kits and ventilators Washington, D.C. had requested from the stockpile, it had received zero.
Officials in the district have also publicly criticized the move to classify Washington, D.C. as a territory rather than a state in the congressional stimulus package that passed last week, saying it deprives them of $700 million worth of funds.
Reporting by Makini Brice; Editing by Heather Timmons and Grant McCool
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