If no respirators are left, the newly updated C.D.C. guidance says, health care providers who are older, have chronic medical conditions or are pregnant should avoid treating patients with Covid-19. Providers who have already had the disease, “who may have some protective immunity,” should be the first to treat them if no masks are available.
Dr. Ray of Grady Hospital said doctors there and at a number of other hospitals she had been in contact with were also concerned about running low on regular medical masks, to the point where Grady, one of the nation’s largest and busiest public hospitals, had made them harder to access.
“Health care workers, visitors — if someone sees masks, they are grabbing and taking them,” she said. Under the new rules, she said, “If people need them, they’ll have to ask.”
Doctors who see a lot of sick patients in their offices, rather than a hospital, are increasingly anxious, too. One physician at an outpatient center that is part of the N.Y.U. Langone Health System, who requested anonymity in order to speak freely, said, “We don’t have N95 masks, and are being asked to see patients with surgical masks instead. We are considering refusing to see potential Covid patients unless we have proper protection.” (“Covid” refers to the name of the disease caused by the virus, Covid-19.)
Dr. Marc Habert, a pediatrician in Fishkill, N.Y., said the group he works for, with eight offices in three counties, had virtually no N95 masks or other protective equipment on hand.
“We can’t get any. Everything’s back-ordered,” he said. “I was on a phone call earlier with the local department of health and they basically said the state has supplies, but we need to show we tried to order from three separate places first.”
Georgia had six confirmed cases of coronavirus as of Monday afternoon, including a teacher in the Atlanta area, which led to a decision to close public schools in Fulton County on Tuesday for deep cleaning. Nobody with the virus has been treated at Grady so far, but Dr. Ray said the hospital recently saw one suspected case that proved negative for the virus after several days during which workers went through a lot of personal protective equipment.
“Right now we are just anticipating that we are going to have a lot of patients,” Dr. Ray said, “and we aren’t going to have enough supplies if we don’t figure out how to use less.”