While Trump touts U.S. testing, private doctors say they still lack safety gear

President Trump stood in the White House Rose Garden on Monday and boasted the U.S. has “met the moment and prevailed” with its coronavirus testing capabilities. “If people want to get tested, they get tested,” he said. But according to pediatrician Dr. Dyan Hes, that is not always the case in New York City, where she said private doctors like herself have “no access” to the personal protective equipment they need and are “desperate” for help.

“When the president says we are testing everybody, he can give me a call, because I am in New York City. We have about 40 gowns left, and that has to last me forever,” Dr. Hes told CBSN anchors Vladimir Duthiers and Anne-Marie Green.

Hes said she has tried to contact multiple producers — at one point “begging” an importer to buy hospital gowns — only to be told that they sell by the millions, and a PPE order from her private practice was too small to fill.

“How can I test people if I have no protective gear?” she asked. 

In the last week, Hes said she has had to call at least ten different urgent care facilities to find somewhere for patients with fevers to get tested. She said she’s told some patients with cars to drive to “Long Island or Staten Island or somewhere else to get tested.”

“Most private pediatricians do not have any gear to test because we will expose everybody in our office,” she said. 

The doctor expressed concern about small medical practices that are not affiliated with hospitals, whose funding and larger-scale needs tend to be prioritized by suppliers and health officials. 

“I don’t know where the supply chain is coming from. Are we going to have enough gloves? Are we going to have masks? Are we going to have face shields?” she questioned.

Coupled with the lack of protective gear, Hes said parents’ fear of leaving the house and potentially exposing their families is delaying necessary childhood vaccinations — delays she said could cause “massive outbreaks of other vaccine-preventable diseases.” 

And she’s concerned about what lies ahead in the fall. “We haven’t hit September when flu season starts, so we’re going to have a whole other set of infections,” she said. “We call, we beg. We’re starting to do home visits this week.”

Hes believes many children in New York may have been infected with the coronavirus earlier this year, before it was widely recognized. She said this past January and February were the “sickest” her practice has seen. 

“I never call an ambulance to my office, we have at least 10 ambulances called within two months,” she said, adding that her patients were not sick with the normal viruses known to be circulating at the time. 

Now some children who had COVID-19 seem to be developing severe inflammatory illnesses. Hes says Kawasaki disease, which researchers are now studying as a possible culprit in the slew of child hospitalizations and several deaths, is generally “treatable” if caught early. However, a fear of exposing their children to other diseases in a medical setting could be preventing parents from seeking timely treatment.

“The child might’ve had fever for five days, was not looking well, but I think right now so many people are afraid to go to a hospital,” she said. “And if you’re terrified to go to a hospital, you’re not going to catch it in time.” 

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