Doctors and nurses on their risks, fears — and hard decisions

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Life in the United States and around the world has effectively been put on hold as social distancing has become the strategy of choice against the spread of the coronavirus, which as of Wednesday morning had infected 55,238 and killed 802 in the U.S. Millions are working from home or are out of work entirely, while schools in much of the country are closed.

While the general public is being strongly advised to stay indoors, doctors, nurses and other health care providers can’t work from home. They are facing a new reality of their own, as hospitals and clinics prepare for an imminent influx of coronavirus patients.

This is the second in a series of interviews by Yahoo News with health care providers in different parts of the country. This installment looks at the ways the coronavirus pandemic is reaching beyond emergency rooms and frontline medical workers to affect other parts of the health care system. All the providers who spoke to Yahoo News asked that their names and hospitals not be disclosed, because they were not authorized by their employers to speak to the press.

Many hospitals around the country have begun canceling elective procedures in order to free up bed space, equipment and personnel to make room for more likely coronavirus patients. But one surgeon at a large California hospital pointed out that the kinds of procedures that require intensive care are rarely elective, and those can’t simply be canceled even amid a pandemic. The surgeon was not authorized to speak to the press, and asked that his identity, including his specialty, not be disclosed out of concern for his job. However, the types of surgeries he performs are typically emergent, with at least 50 percent or more of his patients requiring recovery time in the intensive care unit, he said.

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