U.S. coronavirus cases surpass 100,000; doctors cope with medical shortages

First responders outside of hard-hit Brooklyn Hospital Center take a bow as dozens of people in and around the New York City borough of Brooklyn's Fort Greene Park cheer and applaud them in a spontaneous social media-encouraged #ClapBecauseWeCare moment of appreciation for ambulance workers, doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers around the city during coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, New York, U.S., March 27, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Oatis

The sum of known coronavirus U.S. cases soared well past 100,000, with more than 1,600 dead, as weary doctors and nurses coping with shortages resorted to extremes ranging from hiding scarce medical supplies to buying them on the black market.

American healthcare workers in the trenches of the pandemic appealed on Friday for more protective gear and equipment to treat a surge in patients that is already pushing hospitals to their limits in virus hot spots such as New York City, New Orleans and Detroit.

Doctors are especially concerned about a shortage of ventilators, machines that help patients breathe and are widely needed for those suffering from COVID-19, the pneumonia-like respiratory ailment caused by the highly contagious novel coronavirus.

Hospitals have also sounded the alarm about scarcities of drugs, oxygen tanks and trained staff.

The number of confirmed U.S. infections rose by about 18,000 on Friday, the highest jump in a single day, to more than 103,000. The United States has led the world in coronavirus cases since its count of known infections eclipsed those of China and Italy on Thursday.

With at least 1,634 lives lost as of Friday night – also a record daily increase – the United States ranked sixth in national death tolls from the pandemic.

As shortages of key medical supplies abounded, desperate physicians and nurses were forced to take matters into their own hands.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday invoked emergency powers to require General Motors Co to start building ventilators after he accused the largest U.S. automaker of “wasting time” during negotiations.

Hospitals around the country are expected to receive some additional aid from a $2.2 trillion emergency relief bill given final passage by Congress on Friday, after days of wrangling, and signed into law by Trump.

The package will send cash to businesses and unemployed workers suffering from the effects of stay-at-home orders that have had the side effect of strangling the economy.

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