Dr. Gregg Miller, Chief Medical Officer at Vituity and a practicing emergency doctor, told the Coronavirus Daily Briefing that one hospital in the area is already running out of ventilators and that his hospital is seeing demand for the vital equipment at “about 50 percent higher than normal.”

“We do feel like this is the calm before the storm, even though things are getting really tight,” Dr. Miller said. “We’re very concerned that we’re going to see an experience similar to Italy and Milan, or similar to what happened in Wuhan, where we’re going to see a sudden ramp up over the next week.”

Dr. Miller credited the social distancing measures adopted widely by the public as helping stem the rise in the rate of Coronavirus transmission.

“I think had we not implemented the social distancing measures that we have, we would definitely have run out of ventilators already,” he said. “It’s hard to say what’s going to happen with this epidemic over the next week or two in Seattle. There have been some significant social distancing measures that have been implemented. My kids are out of school. Large events have been canceled. So hopefully we’re going to see a decline in the rate of transmission of this and maybe we dodged a bullet here. But I think if we hadn’t have done that, there would be a lot of people getting sick over the past few days.”

Dr. Miller issued a stark warning to the rest of the country to implement social isolation measures now to help avoid the kind of case load spike seen in the Seattle area:

“I think what the average American needs to understand about this is that you are going to be OK. This is not an incredibly lethal disease, even though it is maybe 5 to 10 times as lethal as the flu. This is not ebola.
“This is something that the vast majority of young healthy people will get. They’ll have a little sore throat and a sniffle and a cough and they’re going to be okay. The reason why everybody’s freaking out about this and the reason why we’re taking such drastic measures in our society is even though to a young, healthy person the risk of something bad happening is so small, when you multiply that across millions of Americans, especially all the old and vulnerable Americans that we have, and then you divide that by the limited number of ICU beds and mechanical ventilators and ER beds that we have in this country, we are going to be completely overwhelmed.
“When you go to a hospital, you are already operating at close to 100 percent capacity day in and day out, and during the flu season, you’re operating at 120 to 130 percent capacity.
“And now there’s a disease that’s going to come in and make you operate at 500 percent capacity. It’s going to absolutely break the American healthcare system like we saw happen in Italy. So that’s why these social isolation measures are so important; we need to blunt that curve.
“In my community, we’ve seen a huge spike in cases. And what we’re hoping for the rest of America is that you won’t see this spike. You’ll still see the cases, but if you can, blunt the curve over a period of months instead of weeks.”

Listen to the full interview by subscribing—for free—to the Coronavirus Daily Briefing on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify. Regular episodes air weekdays at 5pm ET.