BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — On a conference call held by Sen. Ed Markey Friday, medical professionals described a lack of preparedness and supplies in dealing with COVID-19.
The senator outlined just how seriously he views the current pandemic, highlighting it as the largest challenge of his time in public service.
"It's the greatest issue that I have been confronted with in the course of my entire career serving the people of Massachusetts, and I'm going to be dedicating my efforts to make sure that we protect the people of the Commonwealth," Markey said. "We have to be very vigilant right now in order to avoid potentially thousands of deaths in the Commonwealth, far beyond anything that we've ever seen."
A dozen medical experts joined Markey virtually to deliver a press conference, their heads floating before reporters on laptops as they spoke about the difficulties facing them in dealing with the outbreak.
Dr. Paul Biddinger, Director of Disaster Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, said there isn't enough protective gear for medical workers.
"The hospitals have seen severe shortages in the availability of personal protective equipment, or PPE," Biddinger said. "It started with N95 respirators almost immediately in January, and it's expanded to include gowns, gloves, eye protection, really the entire ensemble."
Eric Rubin, Editor in Chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, summed up why the shortages are happening.
"There was a tsunami coming that we could see, and we hoped that it would go away before it reached us," he said.
Representatives from Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, the Massachusetts Nurses Association, and other organizations weighing in on the call agreed that testing needs to happen on a much larger scale—and much faster—starting now. All agreed the federal response has been inadequate so far.
MGH president Peter Slavin said not enough people were being reached for testing.
"Increased testing is of vital importance," Slavin said. "The FDA has tried to fast-track some testing as of the announcement yesterday, but the only reason we don't know about thousands of more cases is simply because we haven't tested folks fast enough."
Medical experts said elective surgery could be postponed due to the outbreak.
WBZ NewsRadio's Karyn Regal (@Karynregal) reports