Former surgeon general says hospitals and doctors 'struggling' with lack of masks, protective equipment

Former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said on Tuesday that “hospital systems across the U.S. are struggling right now” during the coronavirus pandemic, especially with shortages of gloves, masks and other equipment to protect nurses and doctors who are treating ill patients.

“They are struggling for a couple of reasons,” Murthy told “America’s Newsroom.”

The former surgeon general in the Obama administration (2014-2017) said hospitals are lacking equipment such as visors, as well as masks and sufficient testing capacity to get a sense of how many are infected with the coronavirus.

"We know that masks and gowns and visors to protect our eyes are especially important right now, particularly for our health care workers," he said. “I’m talking to folks in hospitals across the country -- doctors and nurses who are having to reuse masks. My own father and sister, who are doctors in Miami, Fla., and have a private practice there, are unable to get masks to protect themselves and are just waiting and hoping that one day these will actually get delivered to them.”

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Murthy's comments came after President Trump announced on Monday a set of guidelines that he said Americans should follow to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus — despite admitting that the pandemic could stretch into July or August.

Speaking during a briefing of the coronavirus task force, Trump outlined a plan to slow the spread of COVID-19 in 15 days.

“With several weeks of focused action, we can turn the corner and turn it quickly,” Trump said. “Our government is prepared to do whatever it takes.”

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Murthy said that the lack of protective equipment is not only causing anxiety and worry among doctors, but it is also increasing their exposure.

“We’re now seeing in Atlanta and more cities around the country that doctors are now getting sick with COVID-19 and it’s taking them out of the workforce at exactly the time when we need them.”

Murthy also said that in the weeks ahead, there will “undoubtedly be more cases.”

Murthy said that the steps to take to reduce the spread is to wash hands, especially after coming into contact with the outdoors and touching surfaces, cleaning surfaces regularly, and social distancing.

"This is hard, really hard for all of us," Murthy said. "But this is really an all-in moment for America. This is one of those moments where unless all of us are stepping up to do our part, we cannot keep each other safe. If we do so, I believe we can come out stronger than before."

Fox News’ Andrew O’ Reilly contributed to this report.