Houston pleads for more tests, gear as cars pack hospital

A woman is taken on a stretcher by healthcare professionals into the United Memorial Medical Center after going through testing for COVID-19 Thursday, March 19, 2020, in Houston. People were lined up in their cars in a line that stretched over two miles to be tested in the drive-thru testing for coronavirus. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Douglas County is one of the four counties in the United States at the highest risk of having more COVID-19 patients than its hospital can handle, according to a new report from Tech Republic.

Tech Republic is an online technology-focused magazine owned by CBS. Its report is based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maps showing how quickly counties across the country could run out of hospital space during the pandemic.

The maps show several possible scenarios, ranging from 20% of the population being infected over 18 months to 60% being infected over 6 months.

The shorter the time and the higher the percentage, the more overwhelmed hospitals will be.

Fewer infections over a longer period allow most hospitals across the country to cope. But in the 60% infected over 6 months scenario, just about every county across the country has twice as many patients as its hospitals can handle.

So why is Douglas County one of the riskiest places in the nation? There are a lot of older people here, for one thing. More than one-third of the population is 60 or older, and older people have a higher risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19.

Another problem is there aren’t that many hospital beds here.

According to the report, CHI Mercy Medical Center has 140 staffed beds, 174 licensed beds and 32 intensive care unit beds. That’s enough to meet the need under ordinary circumstances. But amid a COVID-19 pandemic, it might not be.

Poor socioeconomics also hurt the county’s rank.

The other three counties that ranked among the four at highest risk were Highlands County, Florida; Marion County, Florida and Mohave County, Arizona.

Douglas County Public Health Officer Bob Dannenhoffer expressed skepticism about Douglas County’s inclusion in the Tech Republic story.

“Although we know that we have an older population and we are a poorer county compared to many, this article underestimates the number of beds, as we use Riverbend for some of our secondary and tertiary care locally,” Dannenhoffer said.

Peace Health Sacred Heart Medical Center at Riverbend is located in Springfield, but under ordinary circumstances, many patients are sent there from Douglas County. The hospital service area, as a Douglas Public Health Network spokeswoman pointed out, is different from county lines.

However, the CDC’s maps indicate that most of Oregon, including Lane County, would be unable to meet the demand for care if a large percentage of the population is infected with COVID-19 over a short period.

Dannenhoffer said Douglas County has another resource in its people.

“We also have a tremendously involved community that works together, and has been really innovative,” he said.

He cited the community COVID-19 hotline and the county’s drive-thru screening clinics as examples of what’s going right.

Douglas County Commissioner Tim Freeman responded to the article with a statement that county leaders are “fully engaged in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“We continue to ramp up emergency operations and will continue to meet the needs of our residents,” he said.

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Senior Reporter

Carisa Cegavske is the senior reporter for The News-Review. She can be reached at ccegavske@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4213. Follow her on Twitter @carisa_cegavske

(8) comments

BetsyC

Then there is the issue of people who are homeless. What has our public health officer done regarding protecting them specifically? The CDC provide guidelines for what counties and cities can do to address COVID19 risk among those who have no place to stay or even wash their hands, yet I have not seen our pubic health official call upon the county and cities, particularly, Roseburg to implement the CDC recommendations.

Patriciaclair

Regarding the Douglas County Public Health Officer Bob Dannenhoffer expressing skepticism about Douglas County’s inclusion in the Tech Republic story. What a missed opportunity to remind the local population of the importance of staying home and social distancing when needing to go out. Instead he says it isn't true that Douglas County doesn't have enough hospital beds. Very shortsighted.

Mike

Why can’t our County Commissioners and Douglas County Public Health Officer Bob Dannenhoffer stop misleading the public on life and death matters? Douglas County Commissioner Tim Freeman claims in this article county leaders are “fully engaged in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.” Yet he and his fellow Commissioners cancelled today’s public meeting at a time when local officials nationwide are meeting with the public and answering their myriad of questions. Keep in mind Commissioner Freeman basically told everyone during the last public meeting two weeks to ignore the disease, saying, “People should go about their lives.”

Why is Public Health Officer Bob Dannenhoffer also misleading the public by first saying coronavirus test results from samples taken eight days ago would be back in two to four days contrary to the Oregon Health Authority’s website. Now Dr. Dannenhoffer expresses his skepticism about Douglas County’s inclusion in the Tech Republic story about a shortage of hospital beds in Douglas County, claiming the article underestimates the number of beds and should include the hospital beds in Eugene as part of Douglas County. Dr. Dannenhoffer’s contention is disputed by a another study of hospital beds in counties surrounding Douglas County.

An analysis of the state’s hospital capacity, as well as key demographic metrics, help illustrate the potential gaps in health care services if COVID-19 infections become rampant, as public health experts (other than Douglas County Public Health Officer Bob Dannenhoffer) predict. Information was collected from the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems about the number of existing hospitals and staffed hospital beds in every county in the state. Bed counts are based on data from 2019 and provide a snapshot of the state’s health care system before the COVID-19 outbreak. Because people over 60 are especially vulnerable to the worst outcomes associated with COVID-19, census data that tracks how many residents are 65 and older was included. The analysis results indicate:

Douglas County beds per 1000 residents = 1.3

Total beds = 145

Available beds = 70 (average beds available to coronavirus patients)

Population = 110,283

Population over 65 = 28,374

Lane County beds per 1000 residents = 1.5

Total beds = 584

Available beds = 125

Population = 379,611

Population over 65 = 73,392

Jackson County beds per 1000 residents = 0.8

Total beds = 176

Available beds = 86

Population = 219,564

Population over 65 = 48,236

Josephine County beds per 1000 residents = 1.4

Total beds = 121

Available beds = 50

Population = 87,393

Population over 65 = 22,709

Coos County beds per 1000 residents = 2.6

Total beds = 165

Available beds = 90

Population = 64,389

Population over 65 = 16,626

Klamath County beds per 1000 residents = 1.5

Total beds = 100

Available beds = 55

Population = 67,653

Population over 65 = 14,340

Douglas County has 26,671 residents 65 or older and only 145 total hospital beds. Lane County is not much better with 73,392 residents 65 or older and only 584 total beds. As our County Public Health Officer, surely Dr. Dannenhoffer know this and understands Douglas County cannot rely on hospital systems in neighboring counties with higher populations or similar bed ratios. So, why is he saying exactly that?

Dr. Dannenhoffer and/or our County Commissioners have been misleading the public since the coronavirus pandemic beginning. Their cavalier attitude and untruthful statements to the media will/are causing additional lives to be lost.

https://www.oregonlive.com/coronavirus/2020/03/mapping-the-coronavirus-in-oregon-how-many-hospital-beds-does-each-county-have.html

Mike

“When we see ourselves in a situation which must be endured and gone through, it is best to make up our minds to it. Meet it with firmness, and accommodate everything to it in the best way practicable. This lessens the evil, while fretting and fuming only serves to increase your own torment.” — Thomas Jefferson.

We are fretting and we are fuming. As a country, we have been caught miserably flat-footed after receiving warnings about what lay ahead when cases of COVID-19 began exploding in Wuhan, China. Messages from local and state leaders about how to respond to the pandemic change almost daily — a sure sign they have no idea what they are doing. Before we bend to the next reactionary spasms of our political leaders, take a look at what we know.

Epidemiologists around the world have been accurately modeling disease outbreaks for years. They have studied the COVID-19 virus’ transmission characteristics and are confident about their projections. The epidemiologic models indicate the shutdowns and school closures will temporarily slow the virus’ spread in the U.S., but when they’re lifted, we will essentially emerge right back where we started. And, no matter what, our hospitals will still be overwhelmed. There has already been too much community spread to prevent this inevitability. The only potential savior that would prevent this scenario is an effective vaccine, but the estimates put us 12–18 months away from making that a reality. Either way, models indicate that our hospitals, at current capacity, will be overwhelmed, with or without shutdowns.

Don’t believe politicians who say we can control this pandemic with a few weeks of shutdown. None of the models supports this as a possibility. As soon as restrictions are lifted, the virus will once again tear through our communities with abandon, until one day we have an effective vaccine. Heartbreakingly, people you know will die. At this point, no matter what we do, we tragically will lose many Americans. How many depends on whether we make up our minds.

CitizenJoe

Mike, spot on. No doubt, you have seen some of the log – scale graphs and watched our doubling time speed up. Here is one set, but I've seen a few more recent and better executed.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/20/health/coronavirus-data-logarithm-chart.html

2019: “Dude they hate me! They said I was the worst year they'd ever seen. I killed it!” 2020: “Here, hold my corona.”

Mike

The Douglas County Commissioner’s meeting scheduled for this morning was cancelled without notice. I sat in front of my computer waiting to get the latest webcast meeting update to no avail. The next meeting isn’t scheduled until April 8. It’s been weeks since the public has heard from the ghostlike Commissioners. Keep in mind, the following is the coronavirus guidance our Commissioners gave the public during their most recent public meeting:

1. “There is no call for social distancing.”

2. “There is no call to close events.”

3. “People should go about their lives.”

4. “This virus, like most viruses, will cycle through and we’ll move on to the next thing.”

Is this still their guidance? Are they too busy imitating Casper to give the public a truthful update or even post a notice that the meeting was cancelled?

https://video.ibm.com/recorded/125993843

Mike

Yesterday, the Oregon Health Authority released information about Oregon coronavirus cases and deaths. During the last Douglas County Commissioner's meeting, Commissioner Freeman said he was receiving inquiries about the same information but said it was illegal to release the information. Was it possible our our Commissioner was misleading the public or were Federal laws changed since the last Commissioner's meeting.

dresdners54@gmail.com

Mike, thank you for being the voice of reason. Years ago Mercy made a commitment to our county that one hospital could handle the needs of the county, however even before this virus they have been shipping many patients for any neurological and cardiac surgical care and many other serious injuries to Riverbend. Having 32 ICU beds is not a place for contagious patients as there is no separate ventilation. Many of these beds are occupied anyway. Oregon is in serious trouble and have thought that way for many years. Our family does not seek care from Douglas County physicians and try very hard to stay away from Mercy. I pray for the people of Oregon. Now that the is some testing being done, are they testing folks after 14 days to ensure they are now negative?

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