Memphis hospitals prepared for potential COVID-19 patients

Memphis hospitals prepared for potential COVID-19 patients

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A new report from Vanderbilt University’s Department of Health Policy shows the number of expected hospitalizations from COVID-19 in Tennessee is much lower than first projected.

In April, Vanderbilt researchers released a report estimating by now more than 1,200 people would be hospitalized throughout Tennessee due to COVID-19. However, the number of people in hospitals is currently around 300.

Researchers say the state started slowing the spread of COVID-19 a month earlier than expected which effectively reduced the growth of the virus -- meaning cases and hospitalizations were no longer growing exponentially.

Meanwhile, the Alternate Care Facility in the old Commercial Appeal building is in its final stages and should be complete by the end of the week.

It will house 400 hospital beds for recovering COVID-19 patients who can leave the hospital but still require oxygen.

The facility is something Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris says will help with hospital capacity when treating COVID-19 patients.

“We continue to watch those numbers. we expect additional hospital capacity to come online soon. It will add to the [COVID-19] beds in Shelby County. It’s an indicator we’re watchful about,” Mayor Harris said.

Dr. Bruce Randolph with the Shelby County Health Department says there's been an uptick in hospital utilization now that hospitals are allowing elective procedures, but there's no cause for concern at the moment.

"We're not alarmed, we're watchful and monitoring," Dr. Randolph said. "We have the capacity to respond to any surge in the near distant future."

Dr. Scott Strome with University of Tennessee Health Science Center says there’s no concern for hospital overcrowding at the moment, however the real test will be two to three weeks down the line when we see more relaxed social distancing measures.

“If we were to see a significant increase, it’s not like we can go back and stay safer at home and then everything would return to normal. It’s going to take at least two to three weeks to get that number down again,” Dr. Strome said.

During a briefing this week Governor Bill Lee said he plans to be in Memphis for the opening and “handing over” of the Alternative Care Facility.

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