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With masks dwindling, a hospital’s Covid-19 crisis team searches for a way out

With the coronavirus bearing down and employees insisting on better protection, a hospital's leaders ask: Where can we get more masks?

This is one in a series of reports from hospitals responding to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I just want to say … yesterday was a really hard day,” said Chuck Morris, one of the two people now in charge of Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “Personally speaking, I sort of went home in a tough place. We’re finding some rhythm, and then some bombs went off.”

The room he was addressing had dealt with true explosions before. This was the place where the hospital’s incident command had convened seven years ago, in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing: the war room of a military-style hierarchy that, for the length of an emergency, replaces the executives who normally run the show. This time, the bombs weren’t literal. They were cases of Covid-19 that had popped up in parts of the hospital where no one was expecting them: On Thursday, March 19, two patients had come in for other reasons — abdominal surgery for one, a bleeding episode for the other — only for their coronavirus infections to come to light after they’d bounced from unit to unit, potentially exposing over 100 workers.

“Today is another day,” Morris went on, around 8 on Friday morning. “I’m not going to be hokey about it, but I want everyone to close your eyes, and we’re just going to take three deep breaths as a group, and then get ready to just face the day. Just quietly, everybody, please — ”

But then the door swung open, and in walked , the incident command’s section chief for planning, one of the straightest talkers in a room full of straight talkers. “We’re taking deep breaths, Shel,” someone whispered. You didn’t even have to look at Anderson’s face to feel her

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