The number of official coronavirus cases in Massachusetts has risen to 256 as of Wednesday afternoon, but experts say the real infection rate could be as high as 6,000 and already, hundreds of people with either confirmed or suspected cases have been checking into Boston-area hospitals.

Massachusetts state representative Jon Santiago, who also works as an emergency room physician at Boston Medical Center, told Jim Braude on WGBH News’ Greater Boston those cases are already putting pressure on local emergency departments.

“The strokes, the heart attacks, the car accidents don’t stop," he said. "This setting is a very difficult one to work in.”

Rep. Santiago said he’s worried about running out of supplies as the outbreak spreads across the state and the country.

“It’s a tremendous concern. We’re being very judicious with how we go around using masks, gowns and the sort," he explained.

Rep. Santiago also stressed the need to expand the capacity of local intensive care units, which are needed to treat the most severe cases of novel coronavirus.

“Carney Hospital in Dorchester, they’ve decided to turn their whole hospital into a care center for COVID-19 and that’s what we’re going to need more of,” he said. “The surge will come, no doubt.”

Rep. Santiago urged the community to heed the warnings coming from public health officials.

“You should act like you’ve been exposed to the virus. You should be home, self-quarantining, practicing good social distancing.”