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LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 (coronavirus)

Harvard: Coronavirus Patients Will Push San Diego Hospitals Beyond Their Capacity

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Speaker 1: 00:01 More actions to slow down. The spread of Corona virus are in effect today in San Diego and across the state. Governor Gavin Newsome ordered the closure of parking lots at state parks to try to prevent people from gathering in large groups in outdoor spaces and encouraged social distancing measures.

Speaker 2: 00:19 When you're out there and you can't even find parking, uh, at a beach, it suggests you're not going to practice social distancing. And it may suggest you may want to find a new location, but to make it easier for you, we're going to shut down all state parking lots.

Speaker 1: 00:34 The city of San Diego quickly followed suit and closed all city beaches, parks and trails.

Speaker 3: 00:41 Meanwhile, the governor said California will need 50,000 additional possible beds for coronavirus patients. That's twice the amount previously estimated. But does San Diego County have enough hospital beds to handle the need for the Corona virus outbreak? KPBS investigative reporter Claire [inaudible] has been looking into this forest and joins us now. Claire, welcome. Thank you. So how is San Diego doing when it comes to bed space? What's the best case scenario? Well. So these are all, um, come from models from the Harvard global health Institute, and I should note they're using 2018 data. So things may have been updated a little bit since then, but I'm probably not significantly. But the best case scenario that they modeled is if just 20% of the county's population, which is between 60,000 and 70,000 people is infected over a long timeframe over the next 18 months. That's really, uh, the best case scenario.

Speaker 3: 01:39 But even in that scenario, they found that our hospitals would be over slightly over capacity. Mmm. And the Harvard researchers also looked at the worst case scenario. What did they find there? Right. So that's if 60% of the population, which is, um, more than 1.8 million people is infected over a really short timeframe of six months. And if, if that plays out, then there would be five times as many patients as available beds, which would be, you know, a pretty grim situation. Hmm. And you know, it was mentioned intensive care unit beds. Why are these beds specifically so crucial? Right. So, so these are specific beds in hospitals that are really for patients with severe or life threatening illnesses. Um, and they have, they, they have constant care, like they're constantly staffed, um, close to so close supervision from life support equipment. Um, they have more highly trained physicians and nurses and respiratory therapists who are specifically there for, for those patients.

Speaker 3: 02:47 Um, so it's really that higher patient to staff ratio and then, you know, being able to access more advanced medical resources. Um, I think there is some work currently going on too, to figure out how they could convert normal beds into ICU beds. You know, with [inaudible] it would depend somewhat on on equipment and staffing. So how does San Diego County compared to other neighboring regions? Right. So you can, I'm looking at the data, you can compare. So I looked at Los Angeles and orange County and Riverside and all of those regions are better off than than we are. Um, so they would be able to meet their hospitals, would be able to meet the demand in those, in those best case scenarios that they modeled out. And then under the word's case, they would still, I have about four times as many patients as available beds. So they would also be in a bad situation if, if that was the case.

Speaker 3: 03:41 I see. What are our local hospitals doing to meet the increased need? Right. So we should say, you know, these models are based on whether hospitals, if hospitals weren't doing anything, but they're doing a lot, um, to try and try and get ready and meet the need. Um, so they're reducing elective procedures and asking anyone, you know, who it doesn't have an essential, um, procedures scheduled to, to postpone that. Um, and then they're, you know, looking, like I said about how to, um, expand the number of ICU beds. And even, um, at UCFD they're looking at, uh, since all the students have moved off of campus, I'm using campus housing to, to increase their, their availability. Um, and then another thing that they're doing is they're doing virtual visits to just try and keep people who need, um, you know, normal routine medical visits out of the offices.

Speaker 3: 04:34 So they said, I think they did a thousand, um, on Thursday and Friday each last week. So that's about 30% of their normal visits. They've switched to virtual, which is a brand new for them. Hmm. And you know, you mentioned you CSD. What about some of the other healthcare providers such as Kaiser and scripts? Sure, yeah, I think that, you know, they're all doing the same thing. Um, script said that they've already canceled a large number of elective surgeries. Um, and then they're gonna they're also working on discharging any patient who could be discharged early, um, or moving them maybe to a lower level of care or, or treating them at home. Um, and then they talked about, you know, if there are beds or if that happens, but their beds are still filled, they would look for other open beds outside the region. Um, and uh, surge tents, which they could set up.

Speaker 3: 05:27 And those would, they have eight tenths, they said. And those wood has 10 cots in close quarters. But then if they needed to do social distancing, it would only has six cots. And that would really be a last resort. Um, and another thing is that the hospitals talked about, normally they're competitors, but they're all working together, um, to try and help each other out in this situation. You know, our hospital's concerned about shortages of other essential such as health care workers, equipment like ventilators or other supplies. Right. Exactly. I mean, that beds is just one part of it. If you have the beds but you don't have the staff, um, you know, that's, that's going to be a problem. So there they're worried about if people become ill, um, then, you know, even if they have a bed open, they might not have the staff to care for patients.

Speaker 3: 06:22 Um, so they're, they're just looking for, you know, bringing in people I'm from outside the region if that happens. And then there, Mmm. You know, medical, uh, government medical reserves, um, who could come in and help in those situations. San Diego County officials think that they have the medical supplies they need, but other smaller community health centers, uh, that really catered to low income and uninsured patients are having trouble finding things like masks. And other supplies that they need. I've been speaking with KPBS investigative reporter, Claire Traeger, sir, clear. Thank you very much for joining us. Thank you.

An analysis of hospital bed data shows that even under a best case scenario, San Diego County hospitals will be filled beyond capacity in the coming months with an influx of patients.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.