Emergency operators and government officials predicted a surge, when COVID-19 cases would outpace health care capacity, around April 24 in Colorado.
Friday, regional health care executives said they have the supplies and capacity they would need if a surge comes.
Local officials said the number of new cases appeared to be slowing, and they do not expect a large surge. But the availability of inpatient beds, intensive care unit beds and ventilators is vital if a surge does happen. In the Southwest, hospital beds are open, and health officials said they should have the capacity to handle a sudden rise.
“We have both ICU and ventilator capabilities that, as we see today, are well in excess of what any potential surge would give us,” said Mike Murphy, Mercy Regional Medical Center interim CEO, during a city of Durango update video released Friday.
During the video, officials outlined surge plans, testing capacity and best practices for the community members in the Southwest.
“We think we’re seeing maybe a flattening of the curve, but that doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods yet,” said Joe Theine, Animas Surgical Hospital CEO. “It’s giving us some hope that we can start to work on other parts of economic recovery and how we care for people.”
“We’re doing the right work at the right time. It doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re going to move through this quickly,” said Liane Jollon, San Juan Basin Public Health executive director.
Hospital capacity: The numbersColorado reported 9,047 COVID-19 cases and 391 deaths Friday. La Plata County reported 51 cases Friday; Archuleta county, eight.
Mercy did not give numbers of ventilators or beds available during the city of Durango update video, but the La Plata County Emergency Operations Center reported Mercy had 34 of 82 inpatient beds and six of 12 ICU beds available during a briefing Friday.
In total, 78 of 133 inpatient beds are available at Mercy and other health care facilities in Durango, Pagosa and Cortez, according to the EOC briefing. The report only mentioned ICU beds at Mercy and Southwest Memorial Hospital in Cortez, totaling 16 beds. Of those, 10 are available.
Hospitals in the area are working together and with SJBPH to coordinate surge response. For example, Mercy can double its inpatient capacity if a surge does occur, Murphy said.
Animas Surgical Hospital could care for non-COVID-related cases if other facilities are overwhelmed and can increase its inpatient beds from 12 to 27, Theine said.
“All of us are not anticipating that that’s going to be needed,” he said. “But we’ve really tried to be thoughtful about how we could be prepared if that surge exceeds what we’re expecting at the moment.”
Is Mercy still getting new patients?The rate of new cases in the region seems to be plateauing, but Mercy still sees a small number of new COVID-19 patients every day, Murphy said.
These patients are kept in specific areas. People who have non-COVID-19 health needs can safely come to the hospital for care, he said.
Amber Blake, interim manager for the city of Durango, said some community members believed that no one was being seen, thinking “we’re at the end of this,” she said.
“I wish that were the case. We’re still seeing patients present themselves with COVID symptoms,” Murphy said.
The tests you want to takeMurphy did not say how many tests were conducted at the hospital during the video, a number repeatedly requested by The Durango Herald. Hospitals are required to report only positive cases. Despite requests of SJBPH to report total number of tests completed, local health care facilities have not disclosed those numbers.
Without testing data, SJBPH has a harder time determining the best course of action, but the data is coming.
Cedar Diagnostics, a private lab conducting community testing, has enough COVID-19 tests for anyone who wants one, said Virginia Burdine, medical director at Cedar.
The lab provides testing for people who are actively experiencing symptoms. It recently reduced the test price from $75 to $50. The tests are by appointment only and people must have a doctor’s order. SJBPH has an assistance fund for those without insurance who cannot afford the test.
Within two weeks, Cedar Diagnostics will be able to test people who might be asymptomatic or might have had mild symptoms. This widespread testing will give the public health department valuable prevalence data – allowing it to track cases more effectively, Burdine said.
“(Prevalence data) is really going to be critical to the community in making decisions about changes in our social distancing,” she said.
The lab is also preparing to work with local businesses. It might be able to provide back-to-work clearance by providing antibody testing.
“This is awesome that this community is coming together ... It’s still going to be a process, and it’s going to be a longer process than anyone would like it to be,” she said. “At least we’re in it together.”