Because people who died while receiving care lasted for like three or four weeks on a ventilator before dying. Since there aren’t enough ventilators, meanwhile one, maybe even two, people who could have survived came into the hospital and were denied that ventilator and died. So you have two or three people dead instead of one. It’s just cold, hard math at play here. That’s what happens when you don’t have the resources.
In the hard-hit parts of Italy, at this point everyone over a certain age is being denied a ventilator, because the odds are better for someone younger (who also needs it). The US is going to be worse because our infection curve is steeper and we have fewer medical resources per capita, and we seem to be seeing more serious cases with young people.
It’s worse than that because there’s no guarantee that being put on a ventilator means you survive. What was happening in China and Italy was someone was put on a ventilator and surviving for a month before finally dying. So the conundrum is whether to have resources being monopolized by someone who probably isn’t going to survive anyways, especially given that someone with a better prognosis might not even need the ventilator for that full length of time. The awful calculus at play is just about maximizing the number of people who survive, not making judgements about how many years they have left.
Normally, with triage, you have a bunch of patients come in at once, and decisions are made as to who has the better prognosis, who is likely to live long enough to receive the limited life-saving care. But this is so much worse - you have a person who is already being treated, who is already on a ventilator, but now someone else gets admitted with a better chance of survival and that first person gets taken off the ventilator and left to die.
I mean, it’s already demonstrably the case - evidence clearly shows that black people are denied care, their health concerns are ignored, etc., leading to substantially worse outcomes even when adjusted for the health, wealth and education, etc. of the patient. For decades, the medical establishment actively attacked anyone who did studies that showed this, but now the evidence is so overwhelming, they can’t deny it. Yet it still remains. (And leaves aside racist myths about imagined biological differences between white and black people that have been codified into medical textbooks and training.)
When the health-care system is racist, you have racist outcomes. Codifying standards would cause racism to be codified into the standards. (One of those racist myths that would directly come into play in this situation is that black people don’t have the same lung capacity as white people, a myth that originated in the 18th century and is currently codified into the programming of spirometers.)