The coronavirus outbreak is bending Boston's health care system, and the president of one of its top hospitals is asking for help, even from people with 3D printers.
Supplies are on the "low side" at Massachusetts General Hospital, and conservation alone will not do the trick, said the hospital's president, Dr. Peter Slavin.
"We need a vast production increase and we need it now," Slavin said.
He said he is worried about respirators, masks, gowns and gloves.
"We are trying to conserve them as best we can," Slavin said. "We desperately need more shipments."
Slavin said a company in Italy has figured out a way to make masks using 3D printers.
"We have vast numbers of 3D printers in this country," he said. "The formula for producing these masks is available online for free. I would hope companies across the country would, who would have that capability, would start making masks later this afternoon."
Vice President Mike Pence said after changes in law Wednesday night, industrial masks can now be sold directly to hospitals.
"Those companies have now greatly increased, by the tens of millions, their production of so-called N95 masks that will give our health care workers the protection that they need," Pence said.
In an afternoon conference call with President Donald Trump, Gov. Charlie Baker followed up on states individually buying supplies.
Baker said Massachusetts lost three orders to the federal government.
"Well, we do like you going out and seeing what you can get if you can get it faster," Trump said. "Price is always a component of that, also. Maybe that's why you lost to the feds."
On Wednesday, boxes of masks were dropped off at Boston Medical Center. Trade unions are clearing out training facilities.
"To see the country rallying around to create those tools to provide the supplies is one of the most important things the country can do right now to make the front line provider know they are seen and supported through this," said Dr. Katrina Armstrong, chief of medicine at MGH.
According to Slavin, MGH has eight patients with confirmed cases of COVID-19, the diseased caused by the new coronavirus, and 88 under investigation.
He said the hospital is at about 70% occupancy, which is significantly lower than the usual rate, which is in the high 90% range. He is crediting the cancelation of elective surgeries for that.
Slavin said he believes the U.S. is at the beginning of the curve other countries with earlier coronavirus outbreaks have experienced and we should more about how steep its trajectory will be in a week.