Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

During the COVID-19 coronavirus emergency, tourists on the quay of the port of Naples are checked with a thermo scanner by Civil Protection personnel, dressed in overalls and masks to protect themselves.

During the COVID-19 coronavirus emergency, tourists on the quay of the port of Naples are checked with a thermo scanner by Civil Protection personnel, dressed in overalls and masks to protect themselves. (Photo: Marco Cantile/LightRocket via Getty Images)

As Italy's Hospitals Overwhelmed by Coronavirus, Top Health Official Says 'Worst Is Yet Come' for US

"We will see more cases and things will get worse than they are right now."

Eoin Higgins

As an eruption of coronavirus cases in Italy strains the country's healthcare system past its breaking point and the disease threatens to do the same in other nations, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases head Dr. Anthony Fauci told Congress Wednesday  that "the worst is yet to come" for the United States and the World Health Organization officially labeled the outbreak a "pandemic."

"We will see more cases and things will get worse than they are right now," said Fauci.

The threat of the coronavirus overwhelming the U.S. healthcare system without aggressive containment remains high. News reports from Italy show a nation with hospitals and doctors pushed far past their breaking point, with care providers forced to make difficult decisions on who to treat due to age and health.

"It won't take that much to completely saturate our capacity to provide care for these patients," Indiana University School of Medicine professor of pediatrics Aaron E. Carroll tweeted Tuesday. "Look at what's happening in Italy right now. That's the cautionary tale."

According to Politico:

For now, the marching orders are: Save scarce resources for those patients who have the greatest chance of survival. That means prioritizing younger, otherwise healthy patients over older patients or those with pre-existing conditions.

"Franky, I don't know for how long the health system can cope, I don't even want to think about how it could end," Milan's Sacco Hospital infectious disease department head Massimo Galli told the Financial Times. "We are holding up, but other hospitals are much worse off than us and it is a fact that we will come increasingly under pressure in the coming days."

The Financial Times reported that the outbreak in Italy, which is now the second most affected country by the disease after China, is pushing the government to take extreme measures, such as a full nation lockdown and ramping up production of surgical masks and other medical supplies. 

"Some people still think that the measures in place are exaggerated," said Galli. "I would like to say to them to come and see what's going on in our departments."

It's unclear if the lockdown measures will have an effect, as Vice News reported:

Even before regions of the north were placed under quarantine Sunday, before the measures were extended to the entire country Monday night, there were signs of major holes in the approach. When news of the impending quarantine in the north leaked Saturday, thousands of people fled the red-zoned areas, raising fears of fresh outbreaks in the south of the country, where the healthcare system is not as well resourced as the wealthy north.

According to Vox, the damage from an overstressed healthcare system is felt across all of society:

Hidden behind the official Covid-19 numbers is a much broader health crisis, rapidly accumulating across the country. Even greater than the official coronavirus toll may be the collateral damage wrought by an over-stretched health system: The pregnant women and babies, cancer and HIV patients, and children in need of vaccines who are now less likely to get the health care they need.

"Looking at all the signs, and there are many, it would be shocking to me if we didn’t have large numbers of cases undetected, silently transmitting in the community, in multiple countries and regions," O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University director Lawrence Gostin told Vox.

Dr. Daniele Macchini, a doctor in northern Italy, took to Facebook to warn the world of what he was seeing in hospitals. Throwing cold water on statements from European governments claiming there is no need to panic, Macchini described a dire situation in the region where doctors are so overworked and concerned over infection they're forgoing heading home for breaks.

"There are no more shifts, no more hours," said Macchini. "Social life is suspended for us. We no longer see our families for fear of infecting them."

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center scientist Emma Hodcroft, in comment to Vox, warned Americans to pay attention to Italy. 

"The Italian situation should be a big wakeup call to the rest of Europe and the U.S.," said Hodcroft.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

'Political Malpractice': House Democrats' Bill Wouldn't Add Dental to Medicare Until 2028

"I don't want to see it drawn out to as far as the House has proposed," Sen. Bernie Sanders said during a recent press call.

Jake Johnson ·

'How Many More Deaths Must It Take?' Barbados Leader Rips Rich Nations in Fierce UN Speech

"How many more variants of Covid-19 must arrive, how many more, before a worldwide plan for vaccinations will be implemented?"

Jake Johnson ·

To Avert Debt Ceiling Calamity, Democrats Urged to Finally Kill the Filibuster

"The solution is to blow up the filibuster at least for debt limit votes, just as Mitch blew it up to pack the Supreme Court for his big donors."

Jake Johnson ·

Biden Decries 'Outrageous' Treatment of Haitians at Border—But Keeps Deporting Them

"I'm glad to see President Biden speak out about the mistreatment of Haitian asylum-seekers. But his administration's use of Title 42 to deny them the right to make an asylum claim is a much bigger issue."

Jessica Corbett ·

Global Peace Activists Warn of Dangers of US-Led Anti-China Pacts

"No to military alliances and preparation for catastrophic wars," anti-war campaigners from over a dozen nations write in a letter decrying the new AUKUS agreement. "Yes to peace, disarmament, justice, and the climate."

Brett Wilkins ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo