COVID-19 hospitalizations top 500 in state

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Hospital industry leaders form response team to allocate resources

By Paul Hughes, Republican-American

HARTFORD — Hospitalizations due to coronavirus infection topped 500 patients Monday with tests results pending for several hundred more suspected cases.

Gov. Ned Lamont reported that hospital bed capacity is expected to increase 50% by the end of this week during an update Monday on the spread of COVID-19 and the state’s ongoing response.

The state’s 27 acute care hospitals have more than 6,800 beds between them, and roughly 60% were reported occupied headed into the weekend.

The updated total announced Monday represented a nearly tenfold increase over the 54 hospitalizations due to COVID-19 that were reported last Monday. An additional 113 hospitalizations were recorded between Sunday and Monday.

Public health officials also reported Monday that 578 more people tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the running total to 2,571 patients. The death toll climbed to 34 as two more deaths were announced.

More than 14,600 tests for COVID-19 were reported Monday, including 2,700 more between Sunday and Monday. President Donald Trump announced Monday that more than 1 million tests have been done nationwide.

The state reported seven laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Naugatuck, three in Prospect and two in Beacon Falls. Naugatuck Valley Health District reported on Monday that there were nine cases in Naugatuck. The reason for the discrepancy between data released by the state and health district was unclear.

Lamont announced the formation of the Governor’s Health Response Team to help coordinate the allocation of needed resources, supplies and personnel among the state’s hospitals.

The CEOs of Hartford HealthCare, Nuvance Health, and Yale New Haven Health will co-chair the advisory group that will work with the Connecticut Hospital Association, individual hospitals and the state Department of Public Health.

Hospital officials have been regularly consulting with the Lamont administration before the confirmation of the first positive COVID-19 case in the state on March 8, including working on expanding hospital bed capacity.

“We got ahead of this curve early, and we’re running like hell, and the virus is right behind us,” Lamont said.

He said the hospital industry leaders delivered on his request to plan how to expand hospital bed capacity by 50%. He said this goal is expected to be met by the end of this week.

“We plan for the worse so the hospitals are being very creative. They’ve already increased their capacity considerable,” Jennifer Jackson, the president and CEO of the Connecticut Hospital Association.

Yale New Haven Health has cleared out the top three floors of its Smilow Cancer Hospital for use for intensive care patients, said Marna Borgstrom, the health provider’s CEO and president.

Dr. John Murphy, president and CEO of Nuvance Health Care, summed up the challenges confronting the Lamont administration and the state’s hospital system as the infection and hospitalization rates accelerate toward their peaks.

“What we’re trying to do, as you all are, is to figure out when is this surge going to hit and how big will it be, and will it outstrip our capacity to manage patients who need hospitalization,” he said.

The uneven pattern of infection means hospitals in parts of the state with low rates of COVID-19 will be in a position to help out hospitals in harder hit sections.

There were 276 patients reported hospitalized in Fairfield County, 176 in New Haven County, and 96 in Hartford County. The seven patients hospitalized in Litchfield County represented the fourth highest total. Only Windham County had no hospitalized patients Monday.

“To the extent that there is untapped capacity elsewhere in state we want to identify it, we want to take advantage of it,” Murphy said. “This is what this is really about — actively sharing ideas, resources, models, personnel, and when one health system or one hospital has a defined need we will collectively figure out how to address it.”

Borgstrom said hospitals do consult one another on a regular basis, but more so now amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We communicate a lot anyway, but we’ve been communicating a lot now, and it has been a real collaboration,” she said.

Borgstrom said hospitals are also continuing to provide other needed medical care.

“People unfortunately are going to have coronaries. Cancer patients need to continue their radiation therapy and chemotherapy treatments,” she said. “So, it is really we have to make sure we’re here for the people who have always needed us for the things that have afflicted them as well as these COVID-19 positive patients.”

Elio Gugliotti contributed to this article.