NY Scrambles to Find Hospital Beds to Avoid COVID-19 ‘Tragedy’
By: Channel 4 - New York
As Gov. Cuomo points out New York has 5,000 hospital beds and 3,000 ICU units. Those are the facts. So, why the panic?
Let's look at the numbers. Numbers don't lie, do they? New York City has a population of about 8 million (the state has a population of about 19 million).
Medical information reported so far indicates that COVID-19 is as infectious as influenza. That indicates New York City could (note could) see 4 million people infected with COVID-19.
Medical information reported so far indicates that 20 pct of infections result in more severe symptoms. In New York City that would about 800,000 severe cases of COVID-19.
Medical information is all over the place about how many severe COVID-19 cases require hospitalization. If 10 pct of the 800,000 severe COVID-19 cases need hospitalization that would be a need for 80,000 hospital beds. According to Gov. Cuomo New York State has 5,000 hospital beds. And other illnesses and injuries besides COVID-19 will be competing for those hospital beds.
Panic? You bet. The numbers don't lie. It's physically impossible to supply 80,000 hospital beds in a short period of time. There are only 110,000 hotel rooms in New York City. Hospitals would need to be as common place as hotels. And commandeering hotels may supply beds but won't magically create medical staff.
Flattening the curve will prolong the pandemic. The total number of infections and hospitalizations may not change but will happen over a longer period of time; a slow motion disaster. To slow the spread of COVID-19 and avoid overwhelming hospitals, the duration of the pandemic must be stretched out for 16 to 20 weeks. The numbers don't lie.
New York is scrambling to increase its healthcare capacity before a "wave" of coronavirus patients breaks on the hospital system.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo addressed the desperate shortage in hospital beds Monday morning in a press conference. He called on the federal government to provide urgent assistance in increasing capacity, warning that the current trajectory of new cases shows the system is about to be overwhelmed.
"You'll have this influx you can't handle, you overwhelm the hospitals, you have people on gurneys in hallways -- that is what is going to happen now if we do nothing, and that, my friends, will be a tragedy," the governor said. The state of New York has 950 cases as of Monday and nearly 500 of those are in New York City.
Cuomo said New York currently has 5,000 hospital beds and only 3,000 ICU beds, but he predicts the state will need many more. He called on the federal government to deploy the Army Corps of Engineers to work with states to build temporary medical facilities and install back-up beds for inevitable hospital overflow.
However, the state is not waiting on the federal government to move on creating extra beds, he said. Cuomo announced that they would mobilize the National Guard to work with building unions and private developers to find existing facilities that can be easily adapted to become medical facilities. Examples include dormitories, former nursing homes and other facilities that have a basic configuration that can be retro-fitted.
He also called on local governments to help the state identify places in their areas that could easily be converted.
Certain hospital regulations would also be relaxed to allow for more capacity in existing healthcare facilities. Existing hospitals would be allowed to increase their numbers of beds per room, decrease the required space between beds and other measures to maximize their capacity. The state is also actively trying to source more doctors and healthcare workers to deal with an expected surge in new patients.
Meanwhile, the governor also warned private hospitals that non-critical elective surgery may soon be canceled. Elective surgeries currently use about 25 - 35 percent of the available beds, Cuomo said. "We may ask them to plan to cancel non-critical elective surgeries -- we will need that capacity in the hospitals when those numbers peak."