‘I have never seen so many sick COVID-19 patients in a single shift’: Rhode Island doctor sounds alarm on rising hospitalizations

“Our healthcare systems are literally at their breaking point.”

Nurse Katie Canina cares for a patient in the Special Pathogens Unit ICU at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, April 27, 2020. Craig F. Walker / The Boston Globe

A Rhode Island emergency room doctor is sounding the alarm on the increasing number of people arriving in hospitals with COVID-19 as cases surge across the country.

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Megan Ranney, a physician for Brown Emergency Medicine and director of the Brown Lifespan Center for Digital Health, shared on Twitter what she saw working an emergency room shift this week, warning that it is just the start of a rising tide in infections.

“I have never seen so many sick COVID-19 patients in a single shift,” she wrote of working Tuesday night. “And Thanksgiving is coming. It is, indeed, about to get worse.”

Local doctors are warning that the “hardest days” of the pandemic will hit in the coming weeks and months unless immediate actions are taken to prevent the rapidly spreading virus, including mask wearing, ramping up state testing, and halting indoor gatherings. The United States is seeing surging new cases, setting all-time highs over the last week in recording more than 120,000 new infections per day. More than 240,000 people have died in the U.S., which has documented 10.3 million confirmed COVID-19 cases. The U.S. leads the globe for both the highest number of infections and deaths.


“We need to take a breath and then commit to action,” Ranney wrote on Wednesday.

That action, she said, should be wearing a mask every time you are around people not in your household; not going to parties, gyms, or indoor gatherings where face coverings aren’t worn; and staying home if you’re at high-risk for severe complications.

“Create your plan, and stick to it, for the sake of everyone around you,” Ranney wrote of getting through the next few months. 

Additionally, health care and public health workers continue to need support and personal protective equipment, she said. 

“We are all trying to avoid lockdowns,” she wrote. “But our healthcare systems are literally at their breaking point. Please, please, do the right thing.”

Dr. Abraar Karan, a physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said the current situation is the result of political leaders failing to “make the tough calls they needed to weeks ago.”

“We are well beyond the point of this thing slowing down with 10 pm curfews at restaurants and bars & politely asking people to wear their masks indoors,” he wrote. “We must stop cluster spreading — restaurants and bars *are* high risk for super spreading events.”

Wearing masks should be mandated nationwide for indoor public spaces, Karan said. 


“What are we waiting for?” he asked. 

In Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker issued a new mask mandate last week, which went into effect Friday. It requires all residents over the age of 5 to wear a mask or face covering in public locations, both indoors and outdoors, at all times. The update from the governor was one of several orders aimed at addressing the rising number of cases in the state. Baker also lowered the limits on gatherings, issued a business curfew, and updated the state’s stay-at-home advisory.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.


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