Dr. Danielle Stansky, the emergency medicine resident physician in New York City who wrote that stirring account of coping with the novel coronavirus pandemic, may not feel like a hero. But she — and all the other doctors, nurses, paramedics, hospital aides, technicians and janitors who are on the front lines of fighting this terrible disease — are exhibiting a bravery, commitment and sacrifice that is indeed heroic. They most certainly deserve the nation’s thanks. More to the point: They deserve the equipment and support essential to their jobs as they try to save lives, without sacrificing their own.
The experiences detailed by Dr. Stansky in a Post op-ed — the lack of protective gear, the colleagues who already have contracted the virus, the constant fear — are taking a toll on emergency workers and hospital personnel in communities across the country. “My fear of dying is worse now than it was when I was in Iraq,” said an emergency room physician in Los Angeles County. “I feel like we’re all just being sent to slaughter,” said a nurse in the Bronx who has contracted the virus. “It’s hard. Very hard,” said an emergency medical service responder in Queens about how his job puts him at such risk he decided to stop seeing his son.
Measuring how badly health providers have been hit is difficult because no nationwide data have been released. But among the deaths so far from the virus: two nurses in New York City, an emergency room physician in New Jersey and a nurse at Howard University in the District. The experience of other countries is grim: In China, more than 3,000 doctors were infected; in Italy, at least 50 health-care workers have died. Emergency health providers know they always face risks, but they shouldn’t have to accept doing their jobs without even the basics of proper equipment. Stories of doctors being rationed surgical masks that are stored in paper bags between shifts, nurses outfitted in garbage bags instead of protective gowns, janitors made to clean hospital rooms after a patient died from covid-19 without an N95 mask are — or should be — insupportable.
Instead, President Trump suggests there is something suspicious about the rate at which providers are going through masks. Some hospitals have threatened to fire personnel who speak to the media or publicly complain about the lack of supplies. With Department of Homeland Security officials now reporting that the national supply of emergency gear has been depleted, it is more important than ever that Mr. Trump stop casting groundless aspersions and instead do his job. He should make more use of the Defense Production Act to generate needed equipment. The U.S. public can do its part, too, by heeding the advice of doctors and other health professionals and just staying home.