Alaska´s Health Care Collapse due to Covid BY carlos matías
Alaska breaks Covid records with half of those infected in Anchorage. At the close of this edition, the highest number of cases in the city’s history was Sept. 14, with 1,095 new infections. On August 20, several local physicians first sounded the alarm. So did the CDC. But the alarm was not heeded. On September 14, another 40 physicians issued the second alert: Covid cases collapse the largest hospital in the state, overflow the other two most important ones and prevents the care of patients with other ailments. Dave Bronson refuses to require face masks and follow the Government’s mandates. The national emergency is imminent.
Alaska is experiencing the worst weeks of Covid since the beginning of the pandemic. Half of the positive cases are registered in Anchorage. 2,127 on Tuesday, September 7 (figure that includes cases from the previous weekend); another 837 on the 8th; and on the 9th there were 838 more; another 693 on the 10th; the 14th was the day with the most new cases reported in a single day, from the beginning of the pandemic, with 1,095. On the 15th there were not many less: 1,089...
On August 20, several local specialists, among them is doctor and epidemiologist Andrea Caballero, sounded the first alarm. On September 14, another 40 professionals from Providence Alaska Medical Center were present at the Anchorage Assembly’s meeting to raise a second alarm: Covid is collapsing the largest hospital in the state, pushing Alaska Native Medical Center and Alaska Regional to the limit and preventing them from treating patients with other ailments. They are overwhelmed. But Dave Bronson refuses to heed the Assembly’s request and the state’s government recommendations.
The trickle of new cases does not stop. It is the most violent wave of Covid since the beginning of the pandemic a year and a half ago. The data we offer is official and has been published by The New York Times. These figures are updated “live.” We are approaching one hundred thousand cases with an increase of 20% in mortality and more than 30% in hospitalizations. Alaska is the sad news about Covid in the main newspapers of the country, while the local authorities remain insensitive and unconcerned.
Bronson ignores the Assembly Dave Bronson is not one to be alarmed. In a Sept. 14 statement, the date on which the Anchorage Assembly asked him to mandate face masks in municipal offices, the mayor of the most infected city in the state, and one of the most affected in the United States, insists on not requiring the use of face masks, vaccines, extremely important measures to try and curb the virus, dismissing the fact that the Delta variant, now circulating in Anchorage, is the most contagious and deadly of all those that have existed so far.
Bronson says the government’s recommendations are a “personal” and individual choice. “We will not violate the privacy and independent health decisions of our citizens,” he assures in his statement.
More hospitalizations Physicians at Providence Alaska Medical Center –the state’s largest hospital– as well as ANMC and Alaska Regional, are having to ration care to other patients in the face of one of the worst waves of Covid in the country. Sick people who come to the Emergency Room have to wait hours in their cars to be seen. “We can no longer care for them properly,” says Kristen Solana Walkinshaw, M.D., chief of staff and spokesperson for the Providence Medical Executive Committee. “The number of patients and their severity exceeds our capacity for trained staff, such as nurses and respiratory therapists (...) We are in crisis: when we have four patients and two respirator machines, two patients are not being cared for,” she says.
Epidemiologist Joe McLaughlin assures that Alaska is suffering one of the worst Covid outbreaks in the United States. “Alaska has more people hospitalized for Covid than at any time during the pandemic and is second only to North Dakota for the percentage increase in hospitalizations in the last two weeks,” he said in mid-September. But the situation varies from day to day and Alaska has moved from “second place” to fourth, after West Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky. North Dakota has moved from first place to fifth. By the time this edition of Sol de Medianoche sees the light of day, the situation will have changed again.
The CDC (Center for Disease Control) has also turned on its “red lights.” On September 17, Mayor Bronson announced a new Director for the Health Department, Joe Gerace. Although Mr. Gerace has experience in disaster management as he has been a firefighter, paramedic, and commander of medical patrols, his appointment will still have to be confirmed by the Assembly.
National Catastrophe and Emergency “As we watch case rates rise in our community, we anticipate an escalation in Covid hospitalizations in the coming weeks. What is already a stressful situation could quickly progress into a catastrophe,” warns Dr. Solana Walkinshaw.
“We no longer have ICU (Intensive Care Unit) beds, or dialysis equipment,” Dr. Andrea Caballero, one of two female specialists of the six in the entire state and the only one in contact with the Latino community, tells this newspaper. “The nurses have gone from having to care for two patients each to having to care for three patients each, and working twelve hour shifts. We are understaffed. I can’t understand the insensitivity of the local and state authorities.” Andrea Caballero has encouraged her medical colleagues, the patients, and their families to contact their representatives in the Assembly, and their senators to urge them to find solutions. “Dr. Savitt says we have to get vaccinated. But it is already too late because the vaccines take effect after a few weeks and, by then, we will be facing a national health emergency. Resources are running out.”
Deciding who lives and who dies “We doctors take the Hippocratic Oath and commit ourselves to cure the sick,” Dr. Caballero points out. “It is very hard to have to decide who to put on a respirator and who not to, because there is not enough equipment. We are forced to decide who lives and who dies. Not providing solutions is a tremendous lack of solidarity. We are not prepared for this. This situation is seen in Third World countries.”
The government assures that the health and safety of Alaskans “is our top priority” and strongly advises practicing social distancing to a minimum of at least six feet; extreme hygiene measures, especially hand washing; wearing a face mask and getting tested for antibodies: “Protect yourself and others (...) Together we can stop the spread of Covid-19 and keep our communities safe.”
For now, the vaccine, wearing a mask and getting tested against Covid, are the best ways to help us fight the pandemic.
PROUDLY POWERED BY SOL DE MEDIANOCHE NEWS, LLC. Sol de Medianoche is a monthly publication of the Latino community in Anchorage, Alaska