The number of U.S. deaths from the new coronavirus is nearing 5,000, as U.S. officials on Wednesday reported more than 1,000 deaths in a span of 24 hours—and warned that the national stockpile of personal protective equipment is almost depleted.
US reports more than 1,000 new COVID-19 deaths in one day
Officials as of Thursday morning also had reported 4,841 U.S. deaths linked to the virus. According to USA Today, officials as of 10:25 pm Wednesday had reported 1,040 new deaths tied to the novel coronavirus, marking the highest daily increase in the United States' death toll so far.
Pence says coronavirus' effect on US 'may be the most comparable' to Italy
Vice President Pence during an interview with CNN on Wednesday said the White House's latest modeling indicates the new coronavirus' effect on the United States "may be the most comparable" to the virus' effects in Italy, which has seen 105,792 cases of COVID-19 and 12,428 related deaths despite having a much smaller population than the United States and implementing a country-wide lockdown.
The U.S. federal government hasn't deployed a nationwide lockdown, though many states have issued orders requiring their residents to stay at home or have urged their residents to do so. According to Axios, public health experts for weeks have warned that the United States' COVID-19 epidemic could follow a similar trajectory to Italy's if the United States failed to take radical steps to reduce the new coronavirus' spread.
Pence noted that the White House's latest model shows the United States could have seen between 1.6 million and 2.2 million deaths from the new coronavirus if Americans had not practiced social distancing and handwashing guidelines. He said the model projects that, with the social distancing guidelines currently in place, the new coronavirus could kill between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans.
Federal officials say national stockpile of PPE is nearly depleted
In addition, President Trump during a White House briefing on Wednesday confirmed that the national stockpile of PPE—which includes gloves, respirator masks, and other medical supplies—is nearly depleted. Trump said his administration has been sending supplies from the stockpile "directly to hospitals."
According to the Washington Post, Department of Homeland Security officials who spoke with the Post on the condition of anonymity earlier had said the national stockpile was growing low on supplies.
One official told the Post, "The stockpile was designed to respond to a handful of cities. It was never built or designed to fight a 50-state pandemic." Further, the official said, "The supply chain for PPE worldwide has broken down, and there is a lot of price-gouging happening."
The news comes as states and health care workers throughout the country are reporting severe shortages in PPE that are likely to worsen as the number of COVID-19 cases rises in the United States. In addition, states have reported that some ventilators they received from the federal government to help treat patients with COVID-19 were broken, and the New York Times reports that 2,109 ventilators that were intended for the national stockpile are unavailable because a federal contract intended to maintain the stockpile lapsed last summer.
According to the Post, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials have said the Trump administration anticipated the national stockpile would be depleted and is working to replenish and distribute supplies. Janet Montesi, a spokesperson for FEMA, said, "FEMA planning assumptions for COVID-19 pandemic response acknowledged that the Strategic National Stockpile … alone could not fulfill all requirements at the state and tribal level," adding, "The federal government will exhaust all means to identify and attain medical and other supplies needed to combat the virus" (Zapotosky, Washington Post, 4/1; New York Times, 4/2; Wise, The Hill, 4/2; James, USA Today, 4/1; Allassan, Axios, 4/1; Miroff, Washington Post, 4/1; Bowden, The Hill, 4/1; Sanger et al., New York Times, 4/1).