Hospitals brace for crisis, models shows we can nip need

Oregon is at a critical moment in the COVID-19 pandemic, and state authorities are preparing the next phase of intervention.

A joint statewide plan released Friday, March 27, details how the state plans to ramp up services in preparation for a crisis like the one being seen in other states, and how average Oregonians can continue to subdue the virus spread and avoid a rampaging epidemic. 

The plan addresses four urgent actions necessary to expand the health care system’s capacity and maintain its capability as Oregon braces for a projected spike in new coronavirus cases:

1. Procure and distribute critical medical supplies, including personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care workers and ventilators.

2. Optimize hospital capacity to be able to treat COVID-19 cases.

3. Mobilize the health care workforce to respond to COVID-19.

4. Maintain a unified, coordinated and transparent emergency response to COVID-19.

 A return to “business as usual” or slight differences in actual infection rates (compared to projected ones) could swamp hospitals with more coronavirus cases than they could treat, said officials from the Governor’s Joint Task Force for Health Care Systems Response to COVID-19 in a press release. 

Statistical modeling for three possible scenarios shows how the virus could become rampant and how current advisories to maintain social distancing and avoid large gatherings can stop the spread of the coronavirus. 

If Oregon lifted the all the current rules and measures taken to slow the spread of the virus, there will be an estimated 15,000 cumulative infections by May 8 (within a range of 5,900-26,000). Approximately 1,100 people would need inpatient beds across Oregon.

Maintaining bans on large gatherings and school closures only would result in an estimated 6,100 infections (within a range of 2,000-12,000) by May 8.

Maintaining the current interventions could limit infections to 1,000 (within a range of 700-3,800), and hospitals would need a smaller number of beds for those suffering the most severe symptoms. 

“These projections tell us the sacrifices Oregonians are making right now can save lives. At the same time, they paint a dark picture of what could happen. We can’t afford to drop our guard,” said Dr. Dean Sidelinger, state health officer at Oregon Health Authority. 

Other actions being taken include:

• Collecting PPE for re-distribution to facilities in need.

• Working with providers to stand-up alternate care locations (such as the Oregon Medical Station), identify and develop new alternate care sites, enable ambulatory care centers to house patients and re-purpose long-term care facilities.

• The state is developing childcare options for health care workers so their work isn’t interrupted by school closings and family responsibilities.