Maryland, NY move to boost hospital capacity ahead of coronavirus wave
The governors of Maryland and New York on Monday moved to dramatically increase the number of hospital beds in their states ahead of what they fear will be a wave of coronavirus victims that threatens to overwhelm the health care system.
In separate announcements, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said they had ordered state health officials to reopen closed hospitals and to convert other facilities in order to accommodate patients.
In an interview, Hogan said the projected number of cases he has seen in scenarios developed by the state’s health experts show the need to bolster capacity. Maryland has about 8,000 hospital beds, and Hogan’s order will boost capacity by an additional 6,000.
“We don’t have exact numbers, but it goes from really bad to terrible,” Hogan said of the projections he has seen. “None of [the projections] look good. What we’re really all working on, we’re all trying to bend the curve down. If we can stretch this out and slow it down by social distancing and all these unprecedented actions we’re taking, then it looks a lot different.”
In New York, Cuomo’s order will add an additional 9,000 beds to the 53,000 beds already available around the state.
“I need, first and foremost, to find available facilities that can be converted. I’m asking local governments, especially in the most dense area, to immediately identify a number of beds in facilities that are available,” Cuomo said Monday. “This is very expensive and I don’t want to pay money for acquisition of property and real estate. But we need the communities that are most effected to begin finding available beds.”
Cuomo said New York City would need an estimated 5,000 additional beds by itself. Nassau and Suffolk counties likely need another 1,000 beds each, and Westchester County — at the heart of the state’s outbreak in New Rochelle — needs 2,000 new beds.
Since the beginning of the outbreak in late January, health officials and elected officials have worried about overwhelming the existing health care system. The nation has about 924,000 hospital beds, according to the American Hospital Association, including just under 100,000 that can serve people in intensive care.
Without action, Cuomo said at a Monday news conference, “you overwhelm the hospitals. You have people on gurneys in hallways. That is what is going to happen now if we do nothing. That is what is going to happen now if we do nothing. And that, my friends, will be a tragedy.”
Those concerns have only grown in recent weeks as some states and cities run short on the personal protective gear that first responders and health care providers must wear. Some worry about the number of respirators and ventilators both at hospitals and in a national strategic stockpile.
In a conference call with governors Monday, President Trump advised states to seek out their own equipment, a potential sign that the federal government was not prepared or equipped to aid states that are going to need serious help.
“It was a topic of discussion about there’s simply not enough supplies,” Hogan said of the call with the Trump administration. “That has been a frustration and kind of a pinch point in the process.”
“We are working very hard to ramp those things up, but obviously we’re counting on the federal government. We’re getting some distributions from the national stockpile. We got some stuff delivered yesterday. It’s not nearly enough,” Hogan said of the supplies heading into his state.