With coronavirus apex still to come, some US hospitals reeling from capacity crunch

(NEW YORK) — Already told to boost patient capacity by as much as 100%, many hospitals in New York state, the nation’s top hot zone for the coronavirus, reached overcapacity on Sunday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

In Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said the state’s hospitals, specifically in the Detroit area, are already at capacity and medical staffs are on the brink of being overwhelmed.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards warned on Sunday that his state could run out of working ventilators by Thursday and ICU beds by next weekend.

As the coronavirus crisis sweeps across the nation, hospitals administrators say their medical personnel are struggling to keep up with a flood of infected patients — and the apex of the pandemic could still be days and possibly weeks away.

“I guarantee the people of the state, that as long as I’m governor of this state, we won’t lose a life if we can prevent it,” Cuomo vowed Sunday during his daily coronavirus press briefing. “We are not going to lose a life because we didn’t share resources among ourselves.”

No medical professionals are feeling the crunch more than those in New York City, where the number of hospitalized confirmed coronavirus patients has soared past 13,000 and the number of deaths has surpassed 3,000.

As of Saturday afternoon, 30 New York City hospitals were at or near ICU bed capacity, according to information included in a FEMA report reviewed by ABC News. Seven of the hospitals were at or near total capacity, according to the report. All New York City hospitals are expected to be at or near total capacity during the coming week, the report shows.

Officials cautioned that the numbers of hospitalized patients fluctuate hour-to-hour as patients are admitted and discharged and, in some cases, transferred to other hospitals. Some downstate patients were transferred to Albany-area hospitals, Cuomo announced this weekend.

“The operational challenge for the health care system is impossible. The system is overcapacity, all across the board. It is just overcapacity,” Cuomo said.

On Thursday, President Donald Trump approved a request from Cuomo to allow coronavirus patients to be treated at a temporary 2,500-bed hospital created at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City. The temporary hospital, built in less than four days by the Army Corps of Engineers, was initially intended to handle the overflow of non-coronavirus patients.

The Army Corps of Engineers is also building at least three other pop-up hospitals in New York City to help meet the staggering demand, and the U.S. Navy’s 1,000-bed hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, has been docked in New York City to treat non-coronavirus patients.

Cuomo said the total daily number of new hospitalizations in New York state went down between Saturday and Sunday to 574 from a high just five days earlier of 1,412. He said the downward trend was “partially a function of more people being discharged.” He said 75% of the people who have gone into the hospital system have recovered and have been discharged.

“We’re looking at this seriously now because by the data we could be very near the apex or the apex could be a plateau and we could be beyond that plateau right now,” Cuomo said. “We won’t know until we see the next few days, does it go up or does go down, that’s what the statisticians will tell you today.”

As New York flirts with its apex, other areas are getting worse.

Michigan’s Gov. Whitmer said on Sunday that in Detroit coronavirus cases continue growing exponentially. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Detroit grew by about 400 between Friday and Saturday to nearly 4,000, according to the city’s Department of Public Health. At least 129 people have died there from the disease.

“We know that we’ve got hospitals that are already at capacity,” Whitmer said on Sunday in an interview on Fox News.

“This is something that is aggressively growing in all age groups all across our most populous part of the state, which is Southeast Michigan,” Whitmer said.

Dr. Nick Gilpin, medical director for infection prevention at Beaumont Health in St. Clair Shores, Michigan, told ABC News that the number of cases have come so “fast and heavy” that he’s “not sure any level of preparedness would have been enough” to respond to the pandemic.

“I think it’s fair to say that Detroit is getting crushed right now. … We were watching China and trying to anticipate how this would play out,” Gilpin said.

Gov. Edwards of Louisiana warned on Sunday that his state could run out of working ventilators by Thursday and ICU beds by next weekend.

As of Sunday, Louisiana had more than 13,000 confirmed coronavirus cases with at least 4,000 of those in New Orleans, according to the state’s Department of Health. At least 477 people in Louisiana have died from the virus, officials said.

Edwards told CNN that his recent projections are better than last week’s model that showed the ventilators would be used up by Tuesday, because the rate of COVID-19 infections appeared to be declining as more people practice social distancing.

“We hope we can continue a downward trend on the rate of transmission of new cases. That buys us a little more time,” Edwards said.

In neighboring Texas, the problem isn’t near as bad. As of Sunday, Texas had 6,812 confirmed coronavirus cases, with nearly 1,300 of those in Houston and more than 1,000 in Dallas. Texas has recorded 127 deaths linked to the virus.

Dallas’ 15 hospitals reported to Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson on Thursday that about 50% of the 4,763 hospital beds in the city were available.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said at a news conference on Friday that there was an ample amount of hospital beds available across the state. Out of a total of 47,585 hospital beds across Texas, about 41%, or 19,696 were available, including 2,107 ICU beds, Abbott said.

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